I am very taken with a recent article by Annika Hernroth-Rothstein, a young journalist. In it she makes the case that our instant, reflex-like response to every call for BDS and its ilk has, by our very opposition, given these essentially empty attacks against us a life and legitimacy it otherwise would not have enjoyed.
Likewise, Parshat Korach eerily resonates with our daily news feed. Just as certain anti-Israel folks who proudly proclaim their Jewish credentials to justify their attacks, Korach tried to play his Levite card to justify his attack on Moses. קֹרַח בֶּן־יִצְהָר בֶּן־קְהָת בֶּן־לֵוִי, Korach, the son of Yitzhar the son of Kehat the son of Levi (BaMidbar 16:1-5) takes up the challenge to Moshe’s authority and Aharon’s priesthood. וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֲלֵהֶם רַב־לָכֶם כִּי כָל־הָעֵדָה כֻּלָּם קְדֹשִׁים וּבְתוֹכָם יְהוָֹה וּמַדּוּעַ תִּתְנַשְּׂאוּ עַל־קְהַל יְהוָֹה, “And they (Korach and his supporters) said to them (Moshe and Aharon), ‘You have enough!’ For all this community are holy and God is among them. Why do you appoint yourself as Prince over the Community of God?'”
After first giving his grief and shock a brief moment to manifest, וַיִּשְׁמַע מֹשֶׁה וַיִּפֹּל עַל־פָּנָיו, “And Moshe heard and fell upon his face,”, he calmly invites Korach and his followers to a demonstration of God’s will the next day, בֹּקֶר וְיֹדַע יְהוָֹה אֶת־אֲשֶׁר־לוֹ וְאֶת־הַקָּדוֹשׁ, “In the morning God will make known who is His and holy.” After this, he tries to negotiate with them and, when that fails, insecure and questioning himself, he reminds The Creator that he has brought none of this upon himself.
This is not followed by any scenes of Moshe organizing protests, gathering supporters nor publicly arguing with Korach. In today’s culture, one could say that he doesn’t flood the world with op-eds and facebook posts. No tweets. Rather, what Moshe does, and has always done, is to advocate for the welfare of the Jewish People. He pleads before God to not penalize them for the actions of just a few, הָאִישׁ אֶחָד יֶחֱטָא וְעַל כָּל־הָעֵדָה תִּקְצֹף, “Will one man sin and You be furious with all the community?” (ibid. 22)
Korach’s rebellion could easily have become a permanent “faction of the disgruntled” within the Jewish People. Had Moshe felt it incumbent on himself to hold a series of public debates, rather than walking away and allowing Korach to demonstrate his own folly and insignificance, who knows what divisions would have been sown in Bnei Yisrael.
Although in official function Moshe, as both Navi, Prophet, and Nasi, leader, was somewhat separated from the people, he never saw himself as above or superior to Bnei Yisrael. Totally without arrogance, וְהָאִישׁ מֹשֶׁה ענו מְאֹד מִכֹּל הָאָדָם אֲשֶׁר עַל־פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה, “And the man Moshe was very humble, more than every man on the face of the earth” (BaMidbar 12:3)–he never saw himself as more than a man. גּוֹי אֶחָד בָּאָרֶץ (Goy Echad B’Aretz), “One nation on the earth” (Samuel II 7:23), parallel to יְהוָֹה אֶחָד (Adoney Echad), “One God” (Devarim 6:4) was and is his highest teaching. Flattering our own senses of cleverness with cutting remarks in the press or on social media, even inadvertently contributing to the fragmentation of Israel is the most destructive action any of us can take. Enabling trouble-makers by giving them attention, as every parent knows, is always a mistake. Perhaps for Moshe, his own lack of eloquence, אֲנִי עֲרַל שְׂפָתַיִם, “I am of ‘uncircumcised” lips” (Devarim 6:30) became a strength. May we learn from his strength.