WHAT'S ON

Parashat Hashavua

Drash on Parashat Korach         

Rabbi Dr Orna Triguboff
Founder/principal facilitator of Neshama Life
Emanuel Synagogue, Woollahra, NSW

Power play and dissent

This week, the Torah invites us to reflect on the various roles we play in life – as leader and follower. Noticing how each person flows, even during one day, from positions of power and authority to being passive and compliant, and all the states in between.

In this week’s Torah reading, Korach the Levite leads a rebellion against Moses and Aharon during the 40-year wandering of the Children of Israel, on their way to the Holy Land. Korach questions Moses’ justification for holding the position of leader of the Children of Israel saying, “Why do you exalt yourself over the assembly of God?” and stating, “For the entire community, all of them are holy” (Numbers 16:3).

Moses responds to Korach by pointing out that he and his tribe have a holy position themselves and states: "You have enough sons of Levi ... Is it too little for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the community of Israel to bring you near to Him, to serve the serving tasks of the Dwelling of God, to stand before the community … would you seek priesthood as well?" (Num.16:7-10).

The discussion between Moses and Korach is an invitation for each of us to consider our goals in terms of leadership and responsibility and how we can move towards a level of leadership that works for us. As we move through life, things change and each year we can reassess these questions. 

In the Torah, Moses points out to Korach that he, as a levite, already holds a powerful position and asks: “Is that not enough?”

The principle of "enough" is one that repeats itself in other contexts. On Pesach we sing the song dayeinu ("it’s enough for us") to remind us to be grateful for all that we have. On a cosmic level, there is a Midrash that states that when God was creating the world, it expanded and expanded until God said the word "enough".

The ancient Zohar, Book of Radiance, sees this as a timeless struggle between the middot or qualities of Chesed (unbounded lovingkindness) and Gevurah (constriction and rigour). Both principles are essential for the world to function, however Chesed (love) must always be just that bit more powerful in the world, otherwise it would be destroyed.

If we explore this teaching on a personal level, it is interesting to notice when we are in a mode of Chesed (unbounded love) and when we need to bring in Gevurah (boundaries, structure and routine). Both are needed in their right time.

The Zohar goes on to explain that Korach and the Levites represent Gevurah (Constriction and Rigour) and Aharon and Moses represent the Kohanim (priests) and the aspect of Chesed (unbounded lovingkindness).

Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev, the Hasidic Rebbe, stated that Korach wanted all the people to be priests, meaning that he wanted the world to be totally Chesed with no Gevurah. Yet, the world can’t work like that, Gevurah (rigour) has its role and is essential, even though Chesed (love) needs to underpin everything and needs to be the dominant force in the world.

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