Shabbat Shalom Dear Readers Parshat Korach 5775

June 19, 2015

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This article is an adapted version of an article that appeared last year on Globe Tribune.info

Today, Parshat Korach, candle lighting will be at 8:12 PM in Brooklyn, NY. Candle lighting is 18 minutes before sunset, which marks the onset of Shabbat. Chabad.org has a section of their web site that will tell you the candle lighting time in your locality, as well as when on Saturday night Shabbat is over. It is interesting to note that the time of sunset can vary by a minute or so if you travel even a relatively short distance like 20 or 30 miles. Both on Chabad.Org and Aish.com, there are articles that are well worth printing as you and your computer take Shabbat off.

Aish.com has an article about marijuana and the Jewish attitude towards joy. A happiness that is anchored in work, in relationships and in engagement with the world is a happiness that will have a foundation. Happiness as a sensation divorced from the world ends up becoming more and more elusive. Real happiness happens when you are working, building and doing things to improve the world or to improve a moment for someone in it. You don’t find happiness. It happens when you are focused on something else. It really should be called happeness, since it simply happens when you are doing the right thing.

 Chabad.org has an article about the massacre in the Charleston, South Carolina church, in which nine people were gunned down. In addition to identifying and focusing on troubled and dangerous individuals, there needs to be a focus on the moral climate in society, on inculcating in each individual a sense of responsibility to G-d, to society and to the world. This is an essential part of societal cohesiveness, perhaps more important than the pursuit of happiness that seems to have become paramount in the world today, at a time when rights are not counterbalanced by a sense of duty.

Chabad.org has an article This week, parshat Korach, Korach led a rebellion against Moshe and Aaron, arguing that there could be no royalty or priesthood, since all Jews are equal in holiness. In a sense, one could argue that Korach coveted something holy, rather than something material. To want someone’s physical possessions is a negative thing, in that it leads to jealousy, scheming and even hatred. If you envy someone’s learning or refinement of character, it is possible to work on one’s self and to later achieve similar milestones. Korach’s resentment, however even extended to Aaron, whose position is hereditary. In Judaism, one is born to the priesthood. There are commandments that are unique to men, others that are unique to women, and others that can only be performed by Levites or Kohanim. As a whole, the Jewish people can perform all of the commandments, but not as individuals. On an automotive assembly line, each person has a small job to perform. If one worker abandons his station, the absence is sorely felt in a car that might have a glaring and possibly dangerous defect.

This parsha’s references to Korach evoke thoughts of Napoleon Bonaparte, a man who invoked “liberte, egalite, fraternite” but who became a dictator who eventually crowned himself emperor. Korach also invoked egalitarian themes, yet sought to assume the mantle of the priesthood that he himself criticised. The same theme recurs in both communist and fascist dictatorships. Whether this is rank hypocrisy or succumbing to human weakness is an interesting subject for speculation. Either way, it is a recurring theme throughout history that could well be called “the Korach syndrome.”

The story of Korach, because of his mixed motives, sounded like the first political campaign, in which Korach flattered the Jews and appealed to a sense of vanity and egalitarianism. Of course, Korach was not proposing an egalitarian town meeting style of leadership, but wanted to be a leader himself. Had he succeeded in overthrowing Moshe and Aaron, Korach would have become an entrenched tyrant. This has been seen throughout history, in which revolutions nobly conceived deteriorate due to clashing interests and political machinations.

The story of Korach ended badly for him, with the ground opening up and engulfing him and his followers. It is interesting to note that some of the psalms are noted as being “of the sons of Korach. History records that Korach and his followers did, according to some opinions, repent of their sins.

Korach could have found a legitimate outlet for his spiritual yearnings. Unfortunately, personal pride and ambition drew him down the wrong path. In our daily lives both noble and base motives drive us and trouble us. It is in viewing this inner conflict of Korach that it is possible to find a lesson to which we all can connect.

The haftorah for parshat Korach is from the book of Samuel (11:14-12:22) The haftorah complements the Torah portion with the message that the authority of a king is derived from and ultimately conditional upon his obedience to the Almighty.

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