Signs

Signs

Jul 5, 2002 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Korah

The Korah narrative which is the signature tale of this week’s parashah is marked by a rebellious beginning and a hopeful ending. Korah, the great grandson of Levi, and his cohorts challenge the leadership of Moses and Aaron declaring, “For all the community are holy, all of them, and the Lord is in their midst. Why then do you raise yourselves above the Lord’s congregation?” Moses falls on his face in despair and puts these rebels to the test commanding, “You, Korah and all your band, take fire pans, and tomorrow put fire in them and lay incense on them before the Lord. Then the man whom the Lord chooses, he shall be the holy one. You have gone too far sons of Levi!”

 

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Greed and Power

Greed and Power

Jun 5, 2002 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Korah

As Tyco International follows Enron and WorldCom into economic oblivion, the media increasingly focus on the bloated compensation packages that reward aggressive C.E.O.s. It is not easy to identify a moral culprit behind opaque accounting procedures. But unmitigated greed is an ancient and outrageous vice.

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On Korah and Spinoza

On Korah and Spinoza

Jul 1, 1995 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Korah

When I was a rambunctious kid growing up in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, the name of Benedict de Spinoza came to me as easily as that of Ted Williams or Stan Musial or Sid Luckman. If the latter three were among my childhood heroes, the former meant a great deal to my father. He spoke often of Spinoza’s grand conception of God as the sum total of all that exists. Indeed, body and mind were but two attributes of God’s infinite nature. There were countless others which we would never know. For my father, Spinoza represented the fullest and finest expression of Judaism’s historic quest to understand the endless diversity of existence in monotheistic terms. On many a Shabbat I was treated to a discourse that eluded the grasp of my inattentive mind. I remember only the stirring intensity of his fascination. Spinoza provided a haven in which the rational bent of my father’s mind and the religious hunger of his heart could both find comfort.

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Being Jewish at Yale

Being Jewish at Yale

Jun 27, 1998 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Korah

The Talmud condemns the rebellion by Korah and company against Moses as the prime example of “a controversy not for Heaven’s sake.” Tarnished by impure motives, his challenge brings no lasting benefit. And the Torah confirms that reading. Korah is a Levite bent on leveling the religious hierarchy set up by God to govern the Tabernacle. He rejects the special status accorded his clan to service the cult “You have gone too far,” he declaims to Moses. “For all the community are holy… Why then do you raise yourself above the Lord’s congregation (Numbers 163)?” Behind the facade of democratic rhetoric lurks a grab for power.

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Moses the Man

Moses the Man

Jun 19, 1999 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Korah

Nowhere does the Torah provide us with a single, well-rounded profile of the figure who dominates most of its narrative. We, its readers, need to gather for ourselves the traits of Moses, alluded to in piecemeal fashion, into an integrated profile. Plot mediates the contours of character. Last week, for example, the Torah depicted Moses as the most humble of men in recounting the recriminations brought against him publicly by his own brother and sister (Numbers 12). In the stories from the time before he ascended to the leadership of his nation, he exhibits a deep-seated inability to countenance acts of injustice (Exodus 2:11-13, 16-17; 3:7-9). Given to outbursts of anger against the inconstancy of the Israelites (Exodus 32:19-28), he also is moved repeatedly by compassion to intercede with God on behalf of those who have transgressed (Exodus 32:30-32; Numbers 12:13; 14:11-20).

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Listening to Our Enemies

Listening to Our Enemies

Jul 8, 2000 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Korah

On Motzei Shabbat, June 24, 2000, the Conservative synagogue of the Ramot neighborhood in Jerusalem, Kehillat Ya’ar Ramot, was set ablaze. According to the New York Times (Monday, June 26, 2000) this hateful act also involved the defacement of the synagogue “with grafitti that labeled it a place unworthy of worship, and said that a yeshiva–trained Jew should not be there.” Numerous eyewitnesses saw “apparently religious men, wearing black velvet skullcaps and white shirts, fleeing as the flames raged.” Prime Minister Ehud Barak rightly called this tragic incident “an awful act that causes every Jew to shudder.” Indeed, the flames which marred this synagogue were ignited by sinat hinam, baseless hatred a painful, incomprehensible hatred all too familiar to the Jewish people. 

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Jewish Authority

Jewish Authority

Jun 23, 2001 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Korah

During the past few months, there has been a changing of the guard at the helm of key national organizations of the American Jewish community. The personalities interest me less than the process. From a historical perspective what is most striking is the total non–involvement of the state. No Jewish leader in the United States ever needs to secure confirmation of his or her selection from the state. Authority to exercise leadership in the Jewish community derives solely from within. The state makes no pretense of influence or power over the process.

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Ritual Obligations and Moral Lessons

Ritual Obligations and Moral Lessons

Jun 5, 2003 By Marc Wolf | Commentary | Korah

A colleague and friend who shares my fascination with golf as well as my plague of performing poorly, recently gifted me with a book entitled, Golf is Not a Game of Perfect.

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