Korach: No Unity Without Diversity

It is in times of crisis that effective leadership is most important--and the years spent wandering in the desert represented the first major crisis of the Jewish people. Aimlessly wandering with little to look forward to, knowing that they would die in the desert, the hope and excitement of the Exodus was long gone. It is not surprising that, when faced with a crisis, instead of looking inward, people often look to blame others for their predicament. Who better to blame than one's leader?

Brachot 34a: Respect for the Congregation

In Talmudic times, the norm was that the chazzan literally prayed on behalf of the congregation. The people would listen and answer "amen," thus fulfilling their obligation of prayer. In addition to the tefillot of the chazzan, there was (and is, at least in Israel) a daily obligation for the kohanim to bless the people (duchening). The chazzan was to remain focused on the tefillot, and thus, a chazzan who was a kohen was not to duchen or even answer "amen" after their blessing, "lest he be confused".

VaEra: Status Quo

"And they did not listen to Moshe, from short spirit and hard work" (7:9). Moshe had a daunting dual task before him. Not only did he need to demonstrate to Pharaoh that he must free his slaves, he needed to convince the Jewish people that they would be better off following him into the desert. And the latter was a prerequisite for the former.

Chukat: Dying of Thirst

One of the most beautiful and impactful aspects of the Torah is its description of the humanity of its protagonists. Their strengths and struggles, heroism and failures, highs and lows are depicted before us, allowing us to much more readily identify with and learn from them. The realization that our Avot and Imahot had many crises within their own lives, or that Moshe himself had to struggle to contain his temper, can guide us and reassure us as we struggle with our own issues.

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