Korach is one of my favorite Torah portions of the year, not just because it was the parasha I read for my Bar Mitzvah eighteen years ago, but it is a parasha with lots of action. While many of us are away on summer vacations, the Torah reading cycle has some of the most important and exciting portions of the year. In this week’s installment of biblical drama, a group of stiff-necked Israelites led by Korach, Dotan, and Aviram rise up against Moses claiming that Moses is lording over the people being an unjust leader. The attempted coup d’etat fails in spectacular fashion. Moses holds a sacrificial competition between Korach and himself; whomever God chooses will be the leader of the Israelites. Inevitably, God chooses Moses, and Korach, Aviram, Dotan, and all if their followers are swallowed by the earth!
The ending for Korach and his band of rebels is unforgettable. However, it leaves us questioning the difference between the challenges to authority that God likes and dislikes. Jewish history is filled with people raising challenges to their leaders, but few rebels are condemned by God to die by earth-swallowing.
Challenging leadership is no small feat. It takes a lot of chutzpah. The major difference between Korach’s uprising and the rebellions, protests, and movements to bring justice today is that Korach sought only power for power’s sake. Korach’s complaint is that Moses, Aaron, and Miriam have all the power, and he wants it instead. On the other hand, from ancient Abraham to today, we believe that the rebellions, protests, and movements for change that seek truth are worthy of the brave action to speak truth to power.
One protest movement that has inspired me in my recent studies is the Suffragist movement. I cannot fathom that there were once Americans who believed women should not have the right to vote. The protests by these women, the chutzpah to speak truth and seek truth was not popular in its early days, but they achieved victory because they didn’t seek power for the sake of being powerful. The Suffragists wanted to open the eyes of the blind to the truth that women deserve equal representation in a democracy just as much as any man. In today’s protest, those raising their voices are making the simple truthful declaration that the color of your skin should not determine how you are treated by society.
May we always raise up our voices for the truth that all human beings were created in the image of God and that all of God’s creations are deserving of dignity. May all of our protests which seek the truth find success, and may we all live in a day when all of God’s creatures are truly equal.