Living Torah by Rabbi Ari Enkin
This week’s Torah portion is Korach (Bamidbar 16:1-18:32), which is the name of the evil and rebellious leader who tried to overthrow Moses. Korach and his deputies, Dathan, Aviram, and On (who have previously shown their talents at troublemaking), gathered two hundred and fifty men to protest Moses’ leadership. Yes, a Torah portion focused on rebellion.
Korach was a very unique individual. Extremely wealthy, talented, intelligent, and well-spoken – he had all the qualities of a successful leader and he was certainly polished enough to fan the flames of rebellion. Korach’s argument was simple: He too (and most of his followers, as well) were from the tribe of Levi, just like Moses. Why should Moses get the top job? Who voted him in?
So Korach gets up on stage, grabs the microphone (so to speak) and roars out to the crowds: Why should YOU be the leader dear Moses? How dare you take the leadership upon yourself! What makes you greater than anyone else? What right did Moses and Aaron have to assume the leadership and delegate other leadership positions as they see fit? Shouldn’t the leader be chosen democratically? Aren’t we an entire nation of “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”?
Moses was mortified. Uh oh. More problems. Now it’s Korach. More division in the nation. More dissent. Unity is once again challenged.
The commentators teach that, in theory, Korach was right! Democracy and democratic leadership is certainly a noble value that should be cherished and even fought for. But democracy isn’t always right. We have something even more powerful than democracy — it’s called the Torah! As we well know, Moses didn’t even want to be the leader. He shunned the spotlight and ran away from leadership. God left him no choice. In this case – there were no elections: God decided who was to be the leader.
While the general population can often choose the best leaders – sometimes they can be wrong. Voters are often swayed by external appearance, empty promises, and other shenanigans that politicians are renowned for. So, too, politicians are swayed by the voters and will do most anything to secure the vote.
God, therefore, put aside democracy and chose the leader Himself. There was no room for error or corruption in the leadership of the Jewish people. Moshe had a speech impediment – certainly not an advantage for the leader of the Chosen nation. But that didn’t matter. In God’s eyes it doesn’t matter how you dress, speak, or which college you graduated from. God wants his spiritual leader to be noble, honest, sincere, and posses a love for every single person.
Make no mistake – democracy has its place. We are lucky to have a democratic state of Israel where the rights of all are preserved regardless of race or religion. In today’s world the lack of democracy does not mean a life of God, Torah and spirituality, but rather, it means tyranny, abuse, and oppression. But sorry, Korach, – we don’t care what the ballot tally would come up with. It aint your power hungry and egotistical agenda that will bring the Jewish people to the promised land. When it comes to allegiance to the Torah and following correctly in its ways – sometimes, just sometimes, God knows best.
Shabbat Shalom from Israel!
Rabbi Ari Enkin
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