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PARASHAT KORACH

Saturday 6th July 2024    Rosh Chodesh Tammuz    30th Sivan 5784              




PARASHAT KORACH

Numbers 16:1-18:32; 1 Samuel 11:14-12:22; John 19:1-17


Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. (Isaiah 66:1-2)


This week’s parsha (weekly Torah reading) records yet another time when Moses’ leadership was challenged. We saw this two weeks ago when his sister and brother confronted him, and now here, a group led by Korach takes him on again. This time, the issue is the special status given to Moses’ tribe, Levi, as stewards and servants of the mishkan (English: tabernacle). As in the previous affair, God supports Moses. It might be better to say that God supported himself because the special positions of Moses and the Levites were his choice. It’s relatively easy to claim God is behind one’s position; it’s another to see him come through in practical ways as he does in both these occasions.


This week’s Haftarah (accompanying reading from the Prophets) is special for Rosh Chodesh (the new month). From time to time Rosh Chodesh coincides with Shabbat. The month of Tammuz begins at the end of Shabbat this week. Coincidently, the content of the Haftarah from the prophet Isaiah speaks directly to what’s happening in our Torah reading.


Who is it that God regards? Who is it that he is with? Is it the strong, the wise, the spiritually powerful, the successful? Isn’t that what most of us think whether we admit it or not? Moses certainly had some significant qualifications. Did not God do great acts of power at his word? Yet, I wonder what Moses was like in the day-to-day that he would be challenged the way he was. Many leaders make great efforts to prevent such challenges from happening. Not Moses. It’s in the context of the challenge from Miriam and Aaron where we read, “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth” (B’midbar/Numbers 12:3).


There is a great deal of misunderstanding over what meekness or humility really is as if it’s about being a pushover, someone who is easily manipulated. However, when we read the Isaiah passage with the incident of Korach and company we discover a vivid illustration of true humility. First, we see what humility is not. Korach and the others were jealous and self-motivated. They sought to take matters into their own hands for their own purposes. On the other hand, Moses, the humble one, didn’t defend himself, but continually deferred to God to act on his behalf.


True humility places one in a very vulnerable situation. Instead of hiding behind structures and people, they remain open to engaging others as they find their security in God. The proud and self-sufficient may reference God and his word but, in reality, depend on self and others to accomplish their goals.


Moses grasped what Isaiah said many centuries after he lived. The all-encompassing God, who cannot be contained by human beings, will never be controlled by them. It is foolish to think we can ever truly set the agenda for our or others’ lives. Yet, as great as God is, he has regard for those humble like Moses.


The person whom God regards, the one to whom he draws near and communicates, is the one whose heart remains open to him in all things and at all times, always ready to hear his correction and direction, knowing that he alone is Master of the Universe. 

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