Sunday, June 16, 2013

Parshah Meditations

In the recent portion Korach there is rebellion among the Israelites and Moses and Aaron are accused of power-grabbing. A man named Korach incites a group of rebels to take action and they confront Moses but are consumed when the earth suddenly opens and swallows them.

Moses sends Aaron to mollify the restless people and God instructs Moses to take one staff from each chieftan and place it in the ark overnight. The next day, they discover that Aaron's staff has blossomed with almonds, a sign from God that Aaron is the rightful leader of the kohanim (high priests).

One thought that comes to my mind immediately when reading this portion: how do we treat each other in the face of conflict and strife? This portion presents a good example of how easy it is to get caught up in the heat of the moment when communications go awry and people are disgruntled.

My very wise mother always says that it is in times of hardship when we really show what our values and principles are. Unfortunately, conflicts can be very telling of someone's true character when push-comes-to-shove (so to speak).

In the case of Korach we may perhaps interpret his demise as a metaphor for the fact that when we act out of carelessness or malice in a contentious situation, we harm ourselves as well as others. For Korach to voice his grievances is one matter, but he went a step further and incited a full-scale rebellion. No doubt Moses was was not the perfect leader, but rebellion is a bit extreme. As the result of his actions, not only Korach but everyone that followed him in the rebellion were swallowed up by the earth.

A more literal interpretation for Korach's demise: when strife arises in a community, the community becomes divided. If the conflict persists without proper action to smooth things over, some groups/individuals may disappear from the greater community altogether.

Each of us has a tremendous amount of power to influence people and situations, so we must take care to act with diplomacy, especially in the face of conflict.

Be safe this coming week!


  1. This passage speaks to me so much and has rather timely significance to my life. I'm so glad you shared these thoughts, especially because it's true. The best and truest friends still love you when you aren't perfect and life is not going the way we had hoped or planned. It's when there's conflict, when personalities clash, that you really get to know people's true selves. Maybe this is why I have chosen a profession with such a high level of stress and an inherent susceptibility for conflict, because no one can hide in that kind of environment. When the situation is critical and people's lives are in the balance, people can choose to either rise to the occasion or fall under the pressure. The people I work with will all know my true face and I will know there's and that is not a situation that frightens me at all. I really appreciate the power of that kind of honesty and it gives me some peace to know that even the most excellent liars, the most manipulatively charming people, will never be able to hide forever. In the end, it gives me hope to know that God and those I work with will judge me on the raw essence of myself and that it's something that I don't have to be ashamed of.

  2. That all being said, (why is this posting as two different comments when I hit the enter key to separate paragraphs?)diplomacy is essential to effectively interact with anyone in any situation. Saying exactly what you think every second of the day is not honesty, it's frontal lobe injury. To be successful and work together, people have to practice diplomacy and often the art of apology. Korach may have been wrong, but if he had been able to apologize, maybe God would not have felt the need to remove him from the planet. Having sensitivity to others and tolerance of differences is really what separates humans from the other animals on Earth. Glad that you recognized this point for it's value in such a fascinating and classic context and then took the time to share.

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