Parashat Korach

by Rabbi Heidi M. Cohen

We enjoy being in control. We like to think that we are able to plan all our next steps and know exactly where we are going to land at any time. But as the Talmud teaches, “People plan and God laughs!” God laughs at the thought that we think we are in control of every situation when really, so often, we have no control, we are only riding the waves of life as they come to us.

Korach, this was a man who wanted control! Korach did not just want to control life as it happened around him or handle any situation as it arose. No, Korach wanted the POWER to control everything. After all, it was his cousin, Moses, who spoke directly to God; taught the laws to the people; and put into place those who would be in charge of the community.

In a rage for a lust of power, Korach and his followers demanded that Moses and Aaron be stoned to death for not acting in the best interest of the people. Korach suggested that it was Moses and Aaron who were the power hungry ones as they would not share their power with anyone outside of their established inner circles. It was decided only God could decide who was truly deserving of the respect of the community and be the leaders of the people.

And together, they brought their fire pans before God, “and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up with their households…and all their possessions…. they vanished from the midst of the congregation” (Numbers 16:32-33).  The rabbis add that as they were sinking, Korach and his followers acknowledged Moses as the rightful prophet and Aaron as the high priest – something they resisted all along.

It is easy to want power, it is a whole other thing to use the power given responsibly and make decisions not only to benefit the self, but that will benefit the entire community. This is no easy task for any leader.

We appoint leaders in our community – leaders who are elected, chosen to serve the people and be the voice of the people. Leaders who will not only establish the laws for the community, but who will live as examples within the community.  Leaders who will inspire others to participate in community life and listen so as to fulfill the needs of the community.  Leadership cannot be about power, for power can become the downfall of any great leader. Rather, leadership is about living in and participating in the life of the community while also guiding and inspiring others.

This week, we install our 2013-14 Temple Beth Sholom Board of Directors. Many are returning, yet many are now taking a new seat at the table. This is not a position of power but rather, being a member of the Board of Directors is about being in a position of building relationships. There is no one person who controls the power of the congregation. This is a relationship we all share together. Leaders fail when they are only concerned about gaining personal power. But leaders succeed when they build relationships and truly listen and communicate so that together, we can build a stronger and more vibrant community. This is the mission of our new board and we are blessed by each of you as the work of your hands will bless us.

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