Rabbi Miriam's Blog
Rabbinic Intern Message by Dov Gottesfeld
When I was in 6th grade, I was rebellious. I wanted to make changes. Sure enough, I was expelled by the end of the school year. Seeing the tears in my mother’s eyes, a teacher named Abigail, convinced the principal that she would be able to set me on the right tracks. From the first day of school – in the seventh grade, she assigned me to organize all the committees in the school, i.e. the Drama committee, the Health committee, the News committee, the Holidays committee, the Exhibition committee, etc. Abigail always watched me and guided me. A few years after my graduation from elementary school (8th grade) with honors, I went to visit her, and she told me that she had realized that I was passionate about getting involved in school activities, and she simply let me express that passion. It was a great lesson for me in leadership.
When we read the portion of Korach, as a standalone section in the Torah, he appears as a rebel who challenges Moses’ leadership and authority. However, when we read it sequentially from Be’ha’alotcha Torah portion, the perspective of Korach changes drastically. He is no longer a rebel, but an individual who truly wants to get involved and become a part in the construction of the new Jewish community. However, still having the mentality of a slave who recently became free, he does not seem to have the proper attitude and language to express himself adequately. Moses, being a sensitive leader, should have noticed it.
Recently Korach witnessed the following events: Moses assembled seventy from the eldest of Israel and appointed them as his close associates. Eldad and Meydad, two young fellows acted the prophet in the camp, and the young fellow who reported them to Moses, heard him say to Joshua that he wished that "Would all the Lords people were prophets." It is quite possible that later that young fellow spread those words around the community and Korach heard them. Korach also witnessed that Moses sent "all the men being leaders of the Israelites" to spy on the land of Canaan. He also heard Moses telling the Israelites to "present an offering by fire to the Lord […] upon settling in Canaan. He heard about the laws of the Shabbat, and about the tzitzit, etc. Korach, it seems, wanted to get involved; to be a part of the new leadership. However, when confronting Moses, all Moses could do is "fall upon his face", and eventually bring an end to Korach and his tribe by not intervening and stopping God when He opened the earth, which swallowed and burnt Korach and his tribe.
It was hard for me to accept the interpretations of the sages and the scholars whose wisdom I generally respect and quote. I think that the strength of a leader in situation such as this one should have been similar to what Abigail had done with me; by bringing me in, and mentoring me. Who knows, Korach and his tribe could have ended up becoming productive leaders for the nation of the Israelites.
Ahavat Torah of West Los Angeles
About Rabbi Miriam
Rabbi Miriam E. Hamrell MHL, M.Ed., has served as our religious and spiritual leader at Ahavat Torah Congregation and helped it grow since it was founded in 2003.