Friday, June 20, 2014

Parsha Perspective

By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman, Dean, Cheder Chabad of Monsey

The argument of Korach, the mutineer in this week’s Torah portion, Korach  (Bamidbor [Numbers] 16:1- 18:32) , smacks of such inane political correctness. Korach accuses Moses and Aaron of nepotism, of grabbing positions of power for themselves. In doing so, he insists that "The entire community is holy. Why do you exalt yourselves over the congregation of G-d?"

In fact, the very same argument could be used against Jews in general. "Who do you think you are? Chosen People! Aren't all men created equal?"

The fact is that Jews are different. Ask any anti-Semite and he'll confirm it. The blatant hypocrisy of the nations of the world and the international media in constantly holding Israel to a higher standard of morality than it does its Arab neighbors only reaffirms that Jews generally do adhere to a value system that is distinctive and unique.

Indeed, we do.

The Chosen People concept means greater responsibility, not privilege. Rather from making them pompous and condescending about it, it has molded Jews into the most sensitive, humane nation on earth. And that is precisely why if we do occasionally veer from those principles, it is such an aberration that it is considered front page news.

Our belief in and respect of the inherent worth of every human being does not contradict our conviction that Judaism is unique. Does not every single religion maintain that its path is the correct one? Almost all, besides Judaism, actively evangelize to graciously save the lost souls of other faiths. We Jews do not seek converts because we believe that "the righteous of all nations have a share in the world to come" and they don't need to become Jews to get a slice of paradise.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, whose 20th yahrtzeit will be observed 3 Tammuz (July 1) next week, thus explained the midrashic account of Korach's rebellion. Korach gathered his men and they donned garments made of the t'chelet (blue wool) used for the tzitzit, the fringes a Jew is commanded to tie on the corners of a four-cornered garment. "Does a garment made wholly of t'chelet still require tzitzit?" they challenged Moses. Moses answered in the affirmative and they laughed and mocked him. "If one strand of t'chelet exempts an entire garment, does not a whole garment of t'chelet exempt itself?"

Said the Rebbe, this was precisely the argument of Korach. The entire "garment," i.e. the entire congregation, is holy. We are all t'chelet, holy wool. There is no need for distinctions between us. Why do you, Moses and Aaron, appoint yourselves leaders and exalt yourselves over us?

The fact is, however, that distinctions are a necessary reality of life. While we don't look to create divisions between people, not everybody is a doctor. Imagine if every fellow who felt like playing physician would hang up a sign outside his house and start dispensing medicine! We'd have a very sick society.

The Rebbe was a great humanitarian. He was concerned about every nation and every single individual -- Jew or Gentile -- and tried to make a difference to the broader society, as evidenced by his efforts for a sacred "moment of silence" in American public schools and his emphasis on education for all. Simultaneously, he was adamant that Israel needs to be uncompromising in its territorial strategy to safeguard the security of its citizens.

Within our own people, some are "Kohanim," others "Levites" while most of us belong to the rest of the tribes of Israel. There are doctors and lawyers, priests and prophets. The challenge of those who hold legitimate, genuine high office is to keep the distinctions from disintegrating into divisiveness.

(Excerpts from Chabad.org - by Rabbi Yossy Goldman)

May you have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos!

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