MOS 5-Point Parasha - Korakh 5779


Here is our weekly "5-Point Parasha", a short list of what we are enjoying or pondering, as it relates to life and Torah.

Rabbi Sherril shares a teaching based on this week's parasha:

Parashat Korakh

July 4, 2019 / 3 Tammuz 5779

This week in Torah, we meet one of the greatest rabble-rousers[1] of the Book, a man named Korakh. Korakh was a leading member of [the Kehatites,] the most prestigious of the Levite families. In those times, the community was divided into three levels – the Kohanim, or priests, the Levites, who served the priests and the community, and the Israelites – everyone else.

In this story, Korakh argues with Moshe Rabbenu that all of the community is holy and therefore the Kohanim, the priestly class, don't deserve a monopoly on their elevated role. Rebellious Korakh challenges Moshe, saying “the whole community is holy - all of them! Why do you, Moshe and Aharon, raise yourselves above them? Who made you such big shots over G*d’s congregation?”[2] He starts a dialogue with Moshe but spurns Moshe’s response. Through it all, he speaks with arrogance and sarcasm to the community leader.

Korakh may have been suggesting that Aharon’s position in the community was superfluous. He demonstrates his point by dressing 250 people in sky blue tallitot and appearing before Moshe.

Moshe responds, “Even if a tallit is sky blue, it still needs a sky blue thread on one of its tzitzit – even if all the people are holy, they still need a leader.”[3]

The rebellious Korakh remains unconvinced. He threatens an uprising against Moshe, and Moshe accepts the challenge. High drama ensues. The earth opens up and swallows Korakh and all of his followers.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow teaches that we can go deep in trying to understand Korakh’s rebellion: He invites us to listen between the lines of the story[4]; here G*d is speaking to Korakh in the moment of crisis:

Korakh, though Moshe Rabbenu is right, you are not entirely wrong. I want the whole people to become holy, but they are not there yet. Indeed, Korakh, you are right - but only in potential, only like a seed. You think the holiness is already full-grown, fully fruitful. It is not. It is but a tiny seed, and it needs time to germinate and grow, time in the womb of Mother Earth.

Korakh, what you need to learn is what it means to become seed deep in the earth, waiting for the season of your sprouting. Korakh, you are what your name says: frozen. You do not yet understand growth, thawing, all the wisdom a seed learns through the winter as the earth thaws and the seed sprouts.

Learn to be seed, Korakh! Into the earth with you, Korakh! Learn to be seed! Through these forty years of pregnancy, as I carry the People in My belly, as they learn to grow – you too must learn to grow! [5]

My blessing to you at this time - to all of us - is that we all learn to be the seed. That we learn to recognize the seed of unfolding holiness that is our true nature, that is our birthright. Love it and feed it well and nurture it. Find out what will make it sprout, blossom and thrive. Welcome the transformation that comes naturally with the season, and the wisdom that comes with change

[1] Rabbi Laura Duhan Kaplan

[2] Num. 16: 1-3

[3] R’ David Wolfe-Blank, z”l, Meta-Parshiot 5757

[4] Rabbi Arthur Waskow story

[5] Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Rabbi Sherril shares an unpublished poem about Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, z"l, written by Irving Layton:

Reb Zalman

by Irving Layton, c. 1970-1980, unpublished

Reb Zalman walks the rainbow. With his streimel and his big beard, he keeps his balance. All the crowds watch the crazy Jew walking between heaven and earth: ‘Look! Look at the Jew! He’s crazy.’ The streimel sways from side to side. Reb Zalman knows how to walk rainbows.

Reb Zalman shouts out stories of other madmen before him. Like Reb Israel who liked to drink and dance and jump off mountains; and Reb Zalman of Liadi who visited many worlds; then there was Reb Nachman who tried to fly. And now Reb Zalman who walks rainbows.

Reb Zalman dances and waves his arms. He wants to teach the crowds to dance, And maybe one or two To walk rainbows.

Rabbi Schachar shares a Chasidic Parasha teaching:

Rabbi Simcha Bunim Bonhart of Peshischa (1765–1827) explains that the first two words of the parasha, וַיִּקַּ֣ח קֹ֔רַח, literally "Korach took", mean that Korach suffered the consequences of not waiting until he was given from Heaven, but rather, he wanted to take by himself. This does not mean that we need to wait passively in our lives. We need to make efforts. However, we cannot force a flower to open before it is ready, or force a butterfly out of its cocoon. The process of becoming takes patience, like the seed that takes time to germinate, sprout and grow. (See R' Sherril's post above.)

Rabbi Schachar will be leading a discussion about the Poetry of Rav Kook this weekend at the retreat. Here he shares a quote on "Creation and Study" from Rav Abraham Isaac Hacohen Kook z"l:

"Those endowed with the soul of a creator must create works of imagination and thought. They cannot confine themselves in shallow studies alone. For the flame of the soul rises by itself and one cannot impede it on its course." -Light of Holiness, p. 216.

Dr. Yakov Rabkin wrote a tongue-in-cheek French opinion piece about the ramifications of Law 21 and it got published in La Presse: Attention à la foi dissimulée sous un foulard Hermès

Upcoming @ MOS:

Stay tuned for upcoming August launch of "Hebrew through Torah" with Rabbi Schachar.

Other Events of Interest:

Rabbi Schachar will be offering Yin & Yang Yoga, together with Eva Ifrah Mondays, July 15 - Aug 5, 7:30-9 pm, at Dharma Den, 2195 Regent Ave #1. Space is limited. Reservations recommended