Korach: When Is The Desire For Equality Sincere? by Avraham Norin

“Capable leadership can use authority wisely to contribute to solidarity and equality.”

A memorable line from the movie The Incredibles is said as Syndrome captures the Incredible family and explains his grandiose plan to the captured heroes “I’ll sell my inventions so that everyone can be superheroes. Everyone can be super! … And when everyone’s super, no one will be.”

Syndrome’s reasoning, derived from his jealousy of the Incredibles, is similar to that of Korach in this week’s parasha. Korach, the oldest son of Amram’s younger brother, was a first cousin of Moses. Yet he was not awarded any leadership position in Israel- neither president, priest nor prophet. Therefore, Korach started an anti-Moses campaign, stirring up the crowds against Moses with slogans such as “You have gone too far! For all the community are holy!” and ” Why then do you raise yourselves above God’s congregation?” Korach felt that if he couldn’t be a leader, then no one should be able to be one. Korach preached complete equality, but in reality, he was only interested in Moses’ demise. To paraphrase Syndrome, Korah knew that when everyone is a leader, no one is really a leader.  

Once every seven years, the Torah commands to leave the land fallow. This is so “you, your male and female slaves, the hired and bound laborers who live with you, and your cattle and the beasts in your land may eat all its yield” (Lev. 25:6-7) Moreover, once every fifty years, in addition to not working the land, the Torah commands all debts to be canceled, and people’s original real estate returns to their hands. This is equality for equality’s sake, not a power grab by jealous people. For them to work they need to be limited to the Sabbatical and Jubilee years.

Not so long ago, the Communist Revolution occurred. Its leaders spoke about abolishing poverty. They spoke about ending the rat race of capitalism.  My wife’s grandfather who lived in Russia left his Hasidic family to be a part of this new Utopian society. Later in his life, he discovered that the leaders of this movement, like Korach and Syndrome, did not actually seek to empower the masses. Instead, their real motives were to take power away from the current leaders of that time and take it for themselves. 

In summary, a true leader is one like Moses who uses his authority to help the people.  A leader who focuses on knocks down others should be suspected of solely wanting all the power for himself.  

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Avraham Norin lives in the small but cozy community of Maale Hever, Israel. He teaches at Pninei Or, a program for men and women from around the world who wish to convert to Judaism. He writes for 929, a project for learning one chapter of Tanach each day, and Torah MiTzion.  He enjoys hearing new ideas about the Bible. If you have an interesting one, please send him a message at harbashan@gmail.com.

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