Shabbat Evening Service
From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon
Korah was a rebel. He led a rebellion against God and Moses, and lost. Torah explains that Korah lost because of his lack of faith in God. That’s not to say that perfect faith would have enabled him to win in his battle against God and Moses. There are other leaders in Torah who questioned God’s authority and lived to tell the story. The earth didn’t swallow up Abraham when he argued on behalf of the innocents in Sodom and Gomorrah, and Moses wasn’t consumed by fire when he became incensed with the Israelites’ complaints. What’s the difference between Korah and Abraham and Moses?
The difference is their faith. Korah had none. He stood outside the boundaries of a community of faith and dared to overthrow its rulers and its mission. The earth that opened to swallow him up was the ultimate demonstration of the line that divided Korah from the people and their God. Abraham stood up against God, too, but not to overthrow God or to lead the people in his own direction. Rather, Abraham defended the few people who remained innocent and deserved to be saved from destruction. And, while Moses was a faithful servant who knew God “face-to-face” he came to God to plead for God’s help, guidance, patience, and finally, God’s mercy. Moses labored to discover truth and wisdom within the framework of a sacred community that was in formation. He didn’t abandon the people; he demanded their submission to God’s will.
Living within boundaries is more than complying with the norms they represent. It also means applying pressure to those boundaries to clarify truth and wisdom. Abraham did it. Moses did it. Korah did not do it. Do we?
Let’s consider the sacred boundary of marriage. Within it we live and love, and we’re supposed to keep living and loving for a lifetime. But, if a marriage doesn’t include faith in the boundary of marriage then it will disintegrate when it’s tested. However, if faith in the boundary is present, then it will withstand the pressure of disagreements and challenges we face in life. A silver or golden anniversary is not about celebrating the test of time; it’s more about the resilience of two people in a sacred relationship who keep faith within sacred boundaries.
Let’s consider Judaism, today. To doubting Jews, young and old, I have often said, “Ask, doubt, and question, but do so within the boundaries of Judaism. Faith in one God, or even the possibility of God (for those who are uncertain), will sustain any pressure you apply to Jewish boundaries. The result: Your Judaism will deepen.” Abraham and Moses are models of faithful challengers. Korah, on the other hand, well, let’s just say he couldn’t “fathom” Judaism.
Push on Jewish boundaries with all your heart, and soul, and might, and discover what you can know. This month, read a good Jewish book, attend Shabbat Summer services in the Gordon Chapel on Friday nights at 6:30pm, go to Torah study on Shabbat morning at 9:45am, and make Shabbat blessings at home with family and friends. Between Korach’s rebellion and Moses’ faith there is a lot of room for us to find our way. Don’t be like Korach who had no faith; and don’t be like Moses – there was only one. Be YOU and find meaning in your Judaism, today.