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?
The Torah was "edited" with great precision. Narrative and law are often intertwined; one sheds light on the other. While our tradition teaches that the entire corpus of Biblical Law was given at Sinai, many, if not most, of the laws are recorded in multiple places in the Torah, each instance of repetition adding nuances and shadings of meaning. The principle of ein mukdam umeuchar baTorah, events in the Torah are not necessarily chronological, reflects this notion.
The lust for power can destroy a person. It is amazing how people who are otherwise very competent are blinded to reality when the smell of power is in the air. We need look no further than the central character of this week's parsha, Korach. As our Rabbis tell us (see Rashi Bamidbar 16:7), Korach was a smart man. What did he think he would gain by trying to oust Moshe and Aharon? Did he really think he would be successful?
This week's d'var Torah is dedicated in honour of my father Rabbi Joseph Kelman z"l whose yahrzeit is this week. May his memory be for a blessing. --JHK
It is most difficult to solve a problem if the protagonists will not meet with each other and hear each other out. While there is no guarantee that talking will solve an issue, there is a guarantee that silence will perpetuate the problem.
The survival of the Jewish people in the desert was a direct result and only possible because of Divine intervention: the splitting of the sea; water from a rock; living on manna from heaven; clothes that did not wear out; and snakes and scorpions being kept away. The Jewish people were passive recipients of Divine favour, with no worries about survival.
The name Korach is synonymous with Machloket shelo leshem shamoyim, arguments that are not for the sake of heaven. As we read how Korach and his rebel rousers were killed by G-d, exactly as Moshe had predicted, no doubt many feel gleeful as those "who gathered together against G-d" (16:11) receive their due. Yet Judaism demands a much more nuanced approach. True, we must eradicate evil; but we must never confuse evil with evildoers. All people are created in the image of G-d, and all are deserving of respect; there are no exceptions.