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Rachel Peck

Israel-Gaza War 5784: Korach – Let a Thousand Staffs Bloom

In this week’s Torah portion, Korach, a rebellion born out of hopelessness is ended by the miraculous flowering of a staff.

Previously, Moses had followed Hashem’s direction and named his brother, Aaron, to be High Priest. In this portion, a family feud erupts. Korach, the cousin of Moses and Aaron and a fellow Levite, angry and jealous that he had not been chosen, incited the people to rebel against Moses.

Ramban, the medieval Torah commentator, argued that the timing of the rebellion was no accident. Because the Israelites believed the report of the spies, who claimed Canaan was too strong to be conquered, Hashem had just decreed that this generation would not see the Promised Land. Ramban noted that where people lose hope, rebellion soon follows.

When the people needed Moses to take them to the Promised Land, they viewed him as their leader. But when their hope of reaching the land ended, they turned against him, because he could no longer fulfill their hopes.

Since October 7th, a chorus of Israel-haters has claimed that the massacre was the inevitable culmination of 75 years of oppression and despair. What, they say, could you expect of a people who have no hope?

But the Palestinians do have hope. Their hope is to destroy the Jewish presence in the land and claim all of it for themselves. Hope, not its lack, led to October 7th.

Israel has said that its goal is to destroy Hamas completely. Critics say this is impossible, because you cannot destroy an ideology. But Israel does not need to completely destroy Hamas if they can destroy Palestinian hopes for an end to Israel.

There are signs that the Gazan public is turning against Hamas. Some murmur that the organization is to blame for their present fix. In fact, there was already much unhappiness with Hamas before October 7th, but the brutal authoritarian regime ruthlessly cracked down on dissent.

If Israel can cripple Hamas while showing Gazans that they have no hope of ending the Jewish state, then perhaps Gazans will realize that they need to learn to live in peace with their Jewish neighbors. Israel will need to kill the hopes of Hezbollah, Fatah, and the leaders of Iran as well.

But that is just the military front. There is another front where words are the weapons. Pro-Palestinian protesters around the world are making peace difficult. They fuel Hamas’ hopes of victory and encourage them to fight on. They provoke rage against Jews outside of Israel.

As with Korach, it does not take many inciters to create hate-filled mobs. These mobs harass, assault, and intimidate, but they also influence those far removed from their thuggery: leaders of universities, corporations, and governments. Their reach has extended as far as the UN and the International Court of Justice.

Even the United States, Israel’s strongest ally, has withheld much-needed arms from Israel, as the Biden administration tries to placate the extreme wing of the Democratic party. It seems there is another battle, one for public opinion, that must be fought. But how?

Yet in Numbers 17:22-23 the terminology abruptly changes:

Vayanakh Moshe et-hamatot lifnei Hashem b’ohel ha-edut… vayavo Moshe el-ohel ha-edut v’hinei parakh matei-Aharon …(And Moses placed the staffs before Hashem in the Tent of Testimony…and Moses came to the Tent of Testimony and here! blossomed had the staff of Aaron…).”

Just for these two verses, the Tent of Meeting becomes the Tent of Testimony. The text then returns to the term “Tent of Meeting.”

Why this brief change in terminology? The miraculously blossoming staff gave testimony to the people that Hashem, not Moses, had designated Aaron the High Priest. With the charge of nepotism disproved, the Tent of Testimony became the Tent of Meeting once again. How does this relate to us now?

In just my small corner of the Pacific Northwest, our Jewish community spent weeks this past winter testifying against an ugly, mendacious anti-Israel resolution brought before our city council, and succeeded in stopping it.

In addition, students at the university in town have testified against a BDS resolution brought before the student senate. Since October 7th, local Jews have spoken to our elected representatives and school board in support of Israel and students experiencing antisemitic harassment. We have also responded to multiple letters and editorials in our local newspaper libeling Israel as a genocidal, apartheid state.

Testimony is important in this information war. All over the US and, indeed, the world, Jews and allies are coming together to testify to the righteousness of Israel’s cause and against the hateful lies being told about her. Like the testimony of Aaron’s staff, our testimonies must dispel falsehood and rebuke the mobs.

Taken individually, these efforts may feel small and ineffective against the tsunami of hate, slander, and rockets. But put together, they are powerful. May our enemies lose hope that their cause can succeed. May our testimonies blossom like Aaron’s staff—not only one staff, but many. Let a thousand staffs bloom!

About the Author
I was born in Washington, DC, and raised in the suburbs, but now reside in the temperate rain forest of the Pacific Northwest. I am a retired editor and proud Zionist. I can also be found at https://kosherkitty.wordpress.com/
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