Talya Woolf

No one should be made to feel like Korach

We are all equals in the eyes of G-d. No one Jew is more “special” than another, no one exempt from commandments, mitzvot, or serving in the defense of Israel.

This week’s parsha is Korach, where we hear the story of the mutiny that was led by Korach.

Korach wasn’t a nobody; he was a Levite, a first cousin to Moshe and Aaron. He was born in Egypt, experienced the miraculous exodus, and received the Torah at Mount Sinai with the rest of the community. He was extremely wealthy and very clever, and he participated in the service in the Mishkan. Perhaps this was why he felt he had the right to go against Moshe and Aaron.

Despite all these potentially positive traits, Korach held a grudge, both against his cousins and against Elitzafan (another cousin) who had been chosen as head of the Levite family of Kehot (to which Korach belonged). He was jealous.

To cover this negative trait and paint it in a positive (albeit false) light, Korach gathered 250 community leaders to his side (read: rebellion), claiming that every Jew was special, and that there was no reason for Moshe to be the leader. This, all the while claiming he was ‘more equal’ than the others and qualified to serve.

Jealousy can be an ugly thing. It brings out the absolute worst in people and turns them into monsters, making them use all their positive traits to achieve the worst things. One must remember that jealousy does not indicate that someone has a high view of themselves but rather the opposite. The person displaying jealousy plays the victim, wishing they had something someone else has. The person feeling jealous does not appreciate him/herself enough to feel confident, relaxed, and not threatened. But what if they had reason to be jealous?

It is very easy to be distracted by others’ seemingly good luck that you seem to lack: a loving spouse, numerous children, health, a good job, or a big apartment. But we must remember that everything has a place in the larger scheme. Each of us has our own task, our own blessings (and challenges), and we are all – ALL – loved by G-d.

In addition to the jealousy issue that Korach held, he also misunderstood the concept of leadership in Judaism. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, OBM, explained that leadership is not about status but function. Being a leader is not about holding oneself higher than others. We have to understand the true essence of leadership.

A leader must coordinate a group, unite it, and help it act as one. She must provide a focal point, like a magnifying glass with the sun. He is instructed to help organize the choir, allowing it to sing and create beautiful music. Without a conductor, the dozens would merely be conflicting voices. He needs to unite groups with differing opinions during the hardest and darkest times and find a solution that benefits the nation.

Each of us is a servant of G-d.

Everyone is connected to the land of Israel; this must be viewed through a lens of today.

In defense of Israel during one of the most disruptive wars in decades, one that has no apparent end and one that could potentially be an existential threat (when considering Iran’s role), everyone who can serve should. Today’s war could be, and is, referred to as a milchemet mitzvah – an ‘obligatory war.’ It can be argued that Haredim must go to the IDF to fulfill the mitzvah of aiding Israel against enemies and to fulfill the mitzvah, “You shall not stand idly by your neighbor’s blood” (Vayikra 19:10) and to engage in the mitzvah of saving lives—piku’ach nefesh—and to share in the burden of their compatriots.

In this respect Korach was correct. We are all equals in the eyes of G-d. No one Jew is more “special” than another, no one exempt from commandments, mitzvot, or serving in the defense of Israel.

G-d has granted us our strengths, whether physical, intellectual, emotional, military, or something else entirely. In the military respect, in the defense of our country, there are many ways to serve, in dozens of units, in combat and behind the scenes, hand-to-hand, or in analysis. There is a place for every special Jew in Israel.

[This also means that when Haredim serve beside secular Jews, they must treat each other with respect.]

As Jews, we must fulfill our leadership roles in each aspect of which we possess strengths. G-d wants us to reach our greatest potential as human beings, individuals, and a holy nation. We can do so only when our country is strong, unified, and believes in itself. This can only happen when no one feels like Korach or is made to feel like Korach – that someone else is receiving something they are not, including a military exemption.

The war has taken its toll over the past nine months, and this past week, in particular, has brought the weight of additional sorrow as the son of two college friends of mine fell in Gaza to a sniper last Shabbat and the cousin of my son’s classmate was killed as well.

In their memory, and to give their souls an Aliyah (and the souls of all of our fallen soldiers and Israelis), may we all work together, as beautifully as a chorus and as coordinated as an army, to achieve what is needed in these difficult times.

About the Author
Talya Woolf is an eight-year Olah with four spirited children and a fantastic husband. She is a writer, American-licensed attorney, handgun instructor, amateur photographer, and artist. She is politically confusing, Modern Orthodox (though she doesn't dress the part), and ardent Zionist (ZFB). She enjoys spending time with family, friends, running, photography, and reading about highly contagious diseases and WWII.
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