Rabbi Eisen’s Shabbat Shalom Message

Shabbat Shalom!

HANG IN THERE, SHABBAT IS COMING!

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Candlelighting for
Friday, June 23, 2017 • 7:15pm

• Our Portion for the Week

KORAH – NUMBERS 16:1 – 18:32
In this portion we find a major challenge to the leadership of Moses and Aaron. The reading details the rebellion led by Korah, a Levite, and two members of the tribe of Reuben, Dathan and Abiram. They accuse Moses and Aaron of unduly raising themselves above the community of Israelites, all of whom are holy. Moses tells the people that God will resolve the issue by accepting or rejecting an incense offering. He further declares that if the rebels die an unnatural death it will be a sign of vindication for him and Aaron. Following the test, Korah and his associates are swallowed up by the earth, and fire destroys 250 of the rebels. Aaron is further vindicated in a test involving his staff which sprouts almond blossoms overnight. With the roles of Aaron, his sons and the Levites in connection with the Mishkan firmly established, a list of emoluments is granted to them in return for their work. Thus, the leadership of the Israelites is made secure at a time when the people are still struggling to define themselves and determine their destiny.

• Our Question for the Week •

Scarcely had [Moses] finished speaking all these words when the ground under them burst asunder, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up with their households, all Korah's people and all their possessions. (Numbers 16:31-32)

Moses does not call for Korah's destruction in order to flex God's "muscles," but to desperately defend his reputation as a faithful and selfless leader. If so, is this why Moses asks God to cause the remarkable and destructive earthquakes? Or does Moses, inadvertently or not,  display some uncharacteristic hubris by showing that he has the backing of the Ruler of the Universe?

One of the reasons that Korah's "men of renown" are punished alongside him is because these 250 men are already popular and political leaders, and therefore must be kept separate from cultic responsibility. In today's world, the intertwining of religion and national affairs often is a controversial subject. What are the potential benefits and downsides of the mixing of the two? Is the Torah prescient by foreshadowing this issue?

The earth swallows the rebels in this story because it is physically unable to withstand the chaos and tumult caused by these individuals. This "eruption" can be compared to the way that humans lose their temper and lose control when the circumstances of life become too difficult. What are the best ways to cope when we wish to "erupt?" Is there something cathartic about losing control momentarily, provided we are not causing great harm on those around us? Or ought we try to respond in more measured ways?