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Shabbat Commentary

23/24 June: Shabbat Korach comes in 9.08 pm, goes out 10.28pm


Many commentators note the apparent confusion surrounding the various rebellions in parshat Korach.  The medieval commentator Abarvanel suggests that three distinct revolts are intertwined in the parasha:  the Levites against Aaron; Datan and Aviram against Moses; the tribal chieftains against Aaron.  The coalition builder among all the conspirators is Korach.

Rabbinic tradition understands these rebellions to be motivated by envy, ego, and a desire for power and not any substantive issue with Moses’ or Aaron’s leadership.

Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, writing in the aftermath of the Rabin assassination, explores the role of constructive conflict in any democracy and in the covenantal theology of Judaism.  “Disagreements are allowed in a democracy and in a pluralistic religious community.  It is all right –indeed normal– to argue that the other side/position is wrong.  But  to delegitimate is to claim that the other side/position is not just wrong.  Rather, it is illegitimate.  It has no right to exist; it is not worthy of being heard . . . To enter into a covenant is to agree to disagree but not to delegitimate.

“To disagree is to humanize; to delegitimate is to dehumanize.  This is not to say that all positions are legitimate.  Relativism implies that all views are equally valid (which is to say that none is really correct or ultimately true).  But there is a ‘no’ as well as a ‘yes’ in the pluralist system.

The genius of democracy — and of covenantal religion, pluralistically understood — is that they define the inclusionary principle broadly, making room for a much wider range of interests and views than was true in the past. “

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Paul Arberman

June 22, 2017