Korach 5782 – Humility

By: Michael Carr

Today’s Torah portion tells the story of Korah the cousin of Moses and Aaron who questions the ‘spirtual leadership’ of the Israelites. Moses defends the divine appointment of Aaron as Kohen Gadol  and clarifies the wearing of Tallit.

Like Moses, Korah was a Levite and born in Egypt and a witness to the miracles of the Exodus.

Different than Moses, Korah was a disruptive ‘dis-believer’ of  all that G-d had planned for the Israelites and questions the authority and leadership of the day.

Why was Korah considered a ‘rebel’?

Let’s start with Korah’s general disbelief illustrated by attempts to discredit Moses and Aaron. For example, how could the chosen people’s path to freedom be completed by a shepherd cousin and his brother Aaron who Korah believes was anointed (by way of nepotism) as the high priest of the ‘Chosen People’. 

Another example of Korah’s attempts to discredit Israelite leadership were found in his views and personal  challenge to Moses (and G-d) regarding the Mitzvot of Tallit and specifically tizitzit. 

Well, the rest (as ‘they say’) is history or at least it’s a gripping Torah story we will read about today regarding the demise of Korah, his family (with the exception of his sons) and followers so stay tuned.

Now let’s turn to the virtue of humility and leadership. Why? 

Different than Korah, and throughout the Torah and this parsha, Moses continues to demonstrate his leadership using humility.  Maybe in one of the only examples that comes to mind when Moses loses his humility in Torah appears in next week’s Parsha Chukat, when out of anger and frustration, he strikes a rock to bring calm and quench thirsts of parched Israelites.  

Unfortunately, as we will read next Shabbat, we know how this will turn out for Moses. But hey, Moses was human, and while ‘strong of character’ was also vulnerable.

As John Baldoni points out in a 2009 Harvard Business Review article, “A sense of humility…authenticates a person’s humanity.” He goes on to write that “humans are frail (‘vulnerable’)  and we all have our faults. Recognizing what we do well and not so well is key to self-awareness and paramount to humility.”

As we will read, Korah’s life and his followers literally was turned upside down when he/they failed to acknowledge belief in his cousin’s sincerity, humility and leadership for the practices and ‘path/direction’ of the Israelites.

Maybe if Moses had given Korah a role or responsibility it could have tempered Korah’s frustration and impatience with the direction the Israelites were taking (or maybe not so much).

While all of us are not leaders, or perhaps choose to selectively lead when appropriate, we often need reasons for people to believe in leaders and leadership. In summary humility breeds humility.

Let’s remember this lesson on the virtue of humility in this parsha with a quote from Alabama coach Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant:  “If anything goes bad I did it. If anything goes semi-good, we did it. If anything goes really good, you did it. That’s all it takes for people to win football games for you.”  And get you through the desert to a land flowing with milk & honey.

Good Shabbos!