30 Sivan 5773 / June 7-8, 2013
In this week’s portion, Korach, we find an uprising against Moses and Aaron. It was bound to happen that after 40 years of wandering in the desert, the Israelites were going to get frustrated and tired and question their leadership. The refusal to ask for directions must have been maddening! (But seriously – we learned last week that it was because of the poor reports brought back by the scouts that the Israelites were sentenced to roam in the wilderness for 40 years as punishment, and to wait for all those above age 20 to pass away).
In typical fashion, Moses and Aaron “win” due to a miraculous intervention by God, whereby the leaders (and their families) of the uprising were literally swallowed by the land, disappearing from sight, with their 250 male followers consumed by Divine fire and dying as well.
This concept of an “uprising” has been quite prevalent in the world as of late, with demonstrations this week in Turkey and Iran, ongoing civil war in Syria, and lasting impacts of the so-called Arab Spring.
How are we meant to determine who is right and who is wrong in these sorts of struggles? Is an uprising always a positive thing? Are we predisposed to root for the underdog? The favorite?
What if there is no clear side to choose based on shared values and desired outcomes?
In America, there has been a lot of talk about “red lines,” both as it relates to intervention in Syria and with Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. We quickly jumped into action in Libya, while almost 100,000 have died in Syria since their conflict began. How do we decide when to act in support of or against such uprisings? How have the relative successes or failures of our past interventions swayed our decision-making?
The reality is that it’s most often the victors who write history. What we know to be true of the past is largely courtesy of those who won the battles they fought.
Moses and Aaron won. Thus, Korach and his followers = bad/evil in our inherited narrative.
But, I can’t help but wonder what the situation was really like on the ground (if these events ever actually took place at all), and what actually transpired as it relates to the uprising we find in this week’s portion.
This Shabbat, reflect on your own sense of history, and critically question the narratives you inherently assume are true.
Strive to do further research and to uncover a different perspective to a particular historical event.
Contemplate and solidify the values that in your mind would lead you to “rise up,” and or, to support to uprisings of others.