By Rabbi Shawn Zell
At roughly the same time the Roman poet and philosopher Titus Lucretius Carus was sharing his thought that“One man’s meat is another man’s poison,” the sages of the Talmud were handing down essentially the same teaching. Regardless of its source, we would benefit greatly, if we were to pay heed and revisit the unfounded allegations of Korach, an infamous malcontent of the Torah. Had Korach hurled those very same charges in the here and now, that he hurled against Moshe in the upcoming Torah portion, Korach might very well have achieved remarkable statesman status. In contemporary language, Korach accused his cousin Moshe, of being out of control.
Can you imagine if Korach had accused all the players in the current Israeli balagan (a Hebrew word taken from the Russian, to mean an unmanageable mess) vying for the office of Prime Minister of being out of control? Rather than having reduced himself to sinner status, as was the case in the Torah, when he caustically confronted Moshe, Korach would have elevated himself to saint status. Korach would have achieved such status, by reminding those vying for the position of Prime Minister, that they unknowingly appropriated a verse from the First Book of Chronicles, we sing at Shabbat services, as the Torah is paraded around the sanctuary, prior to being read: “For mine is greatness, the strength, the splendor, the triumph, and the glory”. If it is true that power corrupts, then I believe that vying for power also corrupts. If one common factor exists among this disparate as well as desperate gaggle of greatness grabbers, it is their willingness and preparedness to negotiate a Faustian Bargain. They are prepared to go to any lengths and stoop as low as necessary for the title of Rosh Memshalah or Prime Minister.
Back in the day, “G-d’s country” was a term that was often spoken with abandon throughout these United States. If it were up to me, “G-d’s country would be spoken in the here and now, with even greater abandon. If it were up to me, “G-d’s country” would be spoken of on a regular basis. And not just here, in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. In Israel as well. Especially in Israel. Everyday Israelis would do well to remind themselves, that Israel transcends geography and politics. Everyday Israelis would do well to remind themselves that whether it is Yerucham or Yerushalayim, Tel Mond or Tel Aviv, Israel is G-d’s country. Accordingly, however frustrating it may be to lead a nation of 7 million Jews, a Prime Minister of Israel dare not see his mission in the Knesset as overwhelming; a Prime Minister of Israel must see his mission in the Knesset as sacred. This is independent of his own personal practice of Judaism or lack thereof. A Prime Minister of Israel has been entrusted with the sacred task of leading G-d’s chosen in G-d’s country. Oh, Korach! We could surely use your admonition of those clamoring for the position of prime minister when you reminded them that they had a sacred task before them. Oh, Korach! If only you could defiantly sound off at those longing for leadership, the same way you defiantly sounded off at Moshe.
Every time we visit Israel, the Rebbetzin and I take in a site that we had heretofore not seen. Such was the case, during our last visit when we toured the previous residence of the Prime Minister. After years of neglect and abandonment, what was once the residence of Ben Gurion and Levi Eshkol, was meticulously repaired and refurbished. To say that it was a modest dwelling, would be an understatement. Walking through the various rooms, I was greatly impressed, because there was nothing great about it. Unlike the glory and grandeur of today, the Prime Minister in the formative years of the state lived a very down-to-earth existence. As Korach admonished Moshe, “What right do you have to act as though you are greater than the rest of HaShem’s people”? As off base as Korach was when reading Moshe the riot act, Korach would have hit a home run, had he spoken those very same words to today’s hopefuls. When one is prepared to sell one’s soul for glitz and glamor, one would do well to be concerned whether that same individual would end up selling the country entrusted to him down the river.
As detestable as Korach was to confront Moshe in such a fashion, Korach would be very much welcome to inveigh against those who are at best, very suspicious in their quest to assume the position of a leadership role in a country at a most pressing time.