Drash on Parashat Korach 2021

Drash on Parashat Korach      

Rabbi Dr Orna Triguboff
Emanuel Synagogue, Woollahra, NS




You are a Leader in your own way

  • How do you express your leadership qualities in your life?
  • In which arenas of life are you a leader and in which are you a participant?
  • Are there levels of leadership?
  • What are your aspirations as a leader?
  • Do you feel gratitude for your role as a leader?
  • What type of leader are you?
  • How can you improve your skills as a leader?

These are questions for reflection based on this week’s Torah portion which deals with the rebellion of Korach and his followers as the Israelites journey through the desert.

Korach, of the Levite tribe, challenges Moses’ and Aharon’s right to lead the Children of Israel. Part of Korach’s argument to say that all the people are as holy as Moses and his brother. Moses states that it is God who enstated them as leaders and it is actually not Moses’ desire to be a leader at all. Moses challenges Korach by asking him why his status of being a Levite leader is not satisfying enough.

Korach and some of his followers end up being swallowed up by the earth and the mutiny is thwarted. A plague hits the Israelites and is stopped by a ritual performed by Aharon, the High Priest. Then a sign of Aharon’s rightful place as leader is given when his staff miraculously turns into a budding almond branch.

Interestingly, Korach is given a place of honour as eleven chapters of the book of Psalms are dedicated to the Children of Korach.

How can we understand this enigmatic account?

The late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks brings in an ancient Mishnah teaching about different ways we can challenge and argue:

  • “Controversy for the sake of heaven will come to fruition, whilst controversy which is not for the sake of heaven will not.
  • Controversy for the sake of heaven: Hillel and Shamai.
  • Controversy not for the sake of heaven: Korach” (Mishnah Avot 5:17).

Rabbi Menahem Meiri of Thirteenth Century Catalonia explains this teaching in the following way:

The argument between Hillel and Shamai: In their debates, one of them would render a decision and the other would argue against it, out of a desire to discover the truth, not out of spite or a wish to prevail over his fellow. An argument not for the sake of Heaven was that of Korach and his company, for they aimed to undermine Moses, our leader and his position, out of envy and contentiousness and ambition for victory.

Other commentators support Korach’s right to question and contest leadership.

The Seer of Lublin, early 19th century Chassidic teacher, stated that even though Moses inspired awe in the people, Korach had the ability to help each person see and realise their own sanctity. He felt he could lead the people in a better way.

Whichever way you look at it, this Torah reading invites each of us to consider the leaders we choose to follow and how they affect us. For example, “Do people in positions of power in our lives help us realise our potential?”

It is also a chance to consider ourselves as leaders. Each person has an aspect of their life in which they have some level of leadership and this is a week to consider the quality of leader that is expressed.

 Ask yourself the questions from the start of this article and:

“In which arenas am I a leader?”

“Does leadership help me express the holiness within?”

“Am I satisfied with my leadership? How can I continue to grow as a leader?”

May we all be blessed to be inspired by great leaders and may we live in a world where we are free to ask questions. May each of us express our leadership roles in a holy and wholesome way.

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