Is a rebellious gene embedded into Jewish DNA? Our Genesis begins with Adam & Eve rebelling against God, the brothers rebel against Joseph (or perhaps it’s the other way round?), the people build a golden calf, and the Spies rebel against entering the Promised Land. Examples continue in our Torah portion (Korach), throughout our history and into contemporary times – including events just this week in the Knesset.
In our youth, it was important to learn the concept of right vs wrong and good vs evil. Korach was portrayed in the latter category. As we mature we notice a more nuanced story. For example, despite being swallowed by the earth, leaving behind no physical trace, he lives on in perpetuity by having a parsha named after him and his story repeated to us each year. It’s as if the Torah wants to enshrine the importance of questioning and rebelling against the status quo.
It’s noteworthy that in at least one significant area, Korach could be viewed as even more talented and qualified than his cousin, Moshe: he has the charisma and skill to attract and lead hundreds of followers. (Could this be an early example of a labor union that rallies in an effort to address a perceived wrong?) While the Jews frequently rebel against Moshe’s leadership and suggest that he’s leading them to their graves, Korach’s followers seem more than willing to accompany him, even to the grave.
And put yourself in Korach’s shoes for a moment. Anyone that’s seen nepotism in the workplace, can easily identify with his concern. Similarly, anyone that deems they were inequitably treated and passed over for promotion may experience similar feelings of rejection to Korach and his cohort, and a desire to rebel.
Do you find yourself hesitating to ask for what you want? Maybe you need something in a relationship. Perhaps you haven’t yet called a prospective employer to ask about the progress of the application you submitted 2 weeks earlier. Or you never got round to negotiating for a new title, higher salary, and/or more responsibility. Maybe you see injustice in your Shul, neighborhood, or the broader community. The Torah devotes so much space to rebellion – how can we make space and gain comfort with rebellion in the context of our own lives?