134/929 What’s More Important than God? Bamidbar 17.

For the third time in the Korach story, Moshe’s situation is, as Israelis would say, on the face- al hapanim. Literally. But the last time God declared his intentions to wipe out the entire congregation, Moshe could fall on his face, but still have something to say. “Will You be angry with the entire congregation on the account of one man’s sin?” This time, Moshe couldn’t make that claim. It really was the entire congregation at fault, insisting on blaming Moshe and Aharon, despite all of the miracles, for the deadly consequences of their own rebellion.

So what does a true leader of the Jewish people do when God tells him to remove himself from a sinful, ungrateful, unworthy people?

Moshe’s response ought to make every Jewish leader think long and hard about the dynamics of his relationship to God’s law, on the one hand, and to the Jewish people, on the other.

“Go, quickly, to the congregation, and atone for them.”

The text repeatedly emphasizes how Aharon’s actions take the exact opposite direction of God’s command- he goes “into the midst of the congregation” and stands on the frontlines, “between the living and the dead”, essentially doing battle against God’s decree, while having every justification to let the people suffer their punishment.

This is the only kind of leader that God chooses, one who makes unconditional commitment to the Jewish people his ultimate value. This is the only kind of person whose leadership can bud, flower, and bear fruit.

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This is a blog following the 929 learning project. Learn more at 929.org.il!

About the Author
Avidan Freedman is the rabbi of the Shalom Hartman Institute's Hevruta program, an educator Hartman Boys High School in Jerusalem, and an activist against Israeli weapons sales to human rights violators.
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