“The week of Parshat Korach is always a dangerous one for the Jewish People,” said Rebbetzin Yemima Mizrahi, during a beautiful shiur that she gave last Sunday in Gush Etzion. Internal conflict always threatens to tear us apart during this time, through the three weeks leading up to the 9th of Av, when we lost Jerusalem twice and suffered a whole string of national calamities throughout Jewish history.
If all the high-decibel political lambasting this week were not enough to connect current events to this Parsha, God arranged for the earth to open its mouth and swallow a few cars from the Shaarei Tzedek parking lot, thankfully not taking anyone alive with them.
I think one of the messages here is that, while many of us feel true frustration and concern about the current political situation, and it is legitimate and important to express dissent, our language must still express that we are family and not hate-filled enemies.
Moshe in the Parasha turns to his cousin Korach and his supporters, using their language, when they accuse him and Aaron of stealing both the kingship and the priesthood of Israel. “Rav lachem Bnei Levi!” – “You have overstepped your boundaries, children of Levi!” Rashi: “by protesting the decisions of God himself.”
When they turn a deaf ear, Moshe calls for Datan and Aviram, because, explains Rashi – “one should not perpetuate a conflict. Moshe calls after them to reconcile with them through words of peace.”
The Hebrew word “machloket” – “conflict” – suggests Rebbetsin Yemima, means “moche al chelko” – protests his/her portion! People who by nature are argumentative and judgmental generally lack inner peace and are not satisfied with their unique roles in this world.
They prefer to incite, versus add light – by doing their parts with gusto and faith, without drawing others downward.
This was true for Korach whose jealousy drove him to rebel and seek personal advancement, in the guise of promoting the common good.
Today, when conflicts of opinion are not resolved by Divine miracles, we must learn to respond constructively to unexpected or undesirable outcomes, through clear, non-derogatory words and actions.
We can assume that ideological challenges are also a part of God’s will, meant to make us look inwards and grow.
It is therefore so important not to fault only our leaders and media for the bad things that befall our nation. The actions of leaders often mirror pettiness and conflict among the people.
Perhaps it is time to release our personal grudges, make that phonecall to someone whom we think we hurt, judge people favorably in our everyday interactions, and behave more generously on the roads, in the workplace, and in our communities and homes.
If we feel jealousy, we can try to be more joyful at other people’s unique achievements, and work to recognize and develop our own vast abilities.
My dear friend Esther told me that after studying Parshat Shlach with her granddaughter, they both decided to not complain for that full week, to fix the sin of the Spies who complained and worried loudly to the People.
I have adopted this practice, and it is magical!! Not complaining means not blaming or arguing, but taking responsibility and working things out with the people around me.
May we learn to debate important issues in an atmosphere of “L’shem Shamayim” – for an uplifting, common purpose – and erase all jealousy from our hearts.
Shabbat Shalom and to a blessed month of Tammuz!