Parashat Korach

The Story of Two Kings and One Crown

Parashat Korach is one of my favourites. To me it seems to have a message very relevant to our day, which proves that "stinking manoeuvres" in politics are not an invention of the twentieth century.

The dispute of Korach and his gathering which is described in detail in our portion, is actually the ugly manoeuvre of a dangerous man. Korach leads a rebellion against the leadership of Moses and puts forward claims and arguments that are ostensibly "democratic" and "equitable".

However, in effect, Korach's aim is to lead the people of Israel into anarchy so that he can reap the benefit. A sentence like "all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and G-d is among them. Why then do you lift yourselves up above the congregation of the Lord?" can only be the product of a populistic approach.

Korach is actually a great demagogue who exploits the momentum of uncertainty among the people in order to rebel against Moses.

Just a week ago, it was decreed that that generation would wander for forty years in the desert. A whole generation would for forty years go nowhere. Korach knew that this was a suitable time to undermine the leadership of Moses.

But the main point of this story is that all Korach's arguments were based on a lie. Korach was convinced that Moses had to share the leadership with him.

Democracy is not only a matter of equality but also recognition of the authority of the ruler.

Let me suggest a comparison:

Anyone who has learned how to drive knows that a vehicle has a double system. The person behind the wheel can accelerate but also stop the car. However, even in such a complex system, one thing remains unique: the steering wheel! Only one person can decide whether to turn right or left. There cannot be two drivers of the same vehicle simultaneously.

There is an important rule in the Gemara (Rosh Hashana 27, page 2) which states that two voices are not heard together. For that reason, two people are not allowed to read the Torah together. The person who goes up to read the Torah does not read together with the ba'al kri'a but reads alone at his own pace so that the congregation will not be confused by hearing two voices at the same time.

A leader can allow his people to participate in many matters. He can appoint advisers, judges and ministers, do everything except hand over the wheel.

That was Korach's mistake. Only one person can wear the crown.

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