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Friday, June 23, 2017

Parashat Korakh - my first post in a year

This is a new version of a commentary and poem I have posted in the past. I hope you enjoy.
Here's hoping I start posting again on a regular basis.
Shabbat Shalom
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This week’s parashah/portion, Korakh (Numbers/Be’midbar 16:1-18:32), tells of the revolt against Moses’s leadership led by his cousin Korakh, along with Datan and Abiram. These three, and their followers, challenged Moses and Aaron by claiming that everyone is holy. One could say that it was a biblical version of “you're not the boss of me,” or for those of another generation, “who died and left you bosss?”

If their argument with Moses and Aaron was rooted in their concern for God or the people, what Jewish tradition calls l'shem shamayim (literally, for the sake of heaven) then Moses and Aaron could have discussed or debated the issue with them. After all, disagreement and debate l'shem shamayim is at the heart of Jewish tradition (especially among the later rabbis).

Unfortunately, their revolt, both as portrayed in the Torah and as understood by later commentators, was fueled by ego and hubris, rather than by any belief in equality or the needs of the community. This is why their words were not l'shem shamayim, and why they are swallowed by the earth as punishment. However, that is not the end of the story. For God realizes that there may still be doubt among the people who were not involved in the revolt. Perhaps there was even some doubt within Moses and Aaron.

Therefore, on the following day, God commanded Moses to take the staff from each the leader of all the tribes and to place them in the ground inside the Mishkan/Tabernacle. The next morning they returned and discovered that Aaron’s staff, representing the tribe of Levi, had sprouted almond blossoms. This symbolized that his role, as well as that of Moses, also of the tribe of Levi, was indeed divinely ordained and not simply a duty they placed upon themselves.

In reading the text this time, I couldn't help but wonder what Aaron might have been thinking as all this occurred. We know from prior occurrences in the Torah, that both Moses and Aaron questioned themselves and their ability to lead the people at times. Perhaps, I wondered, did Aaron feel himself being “pulled down” together with his cousin and others? Did he question if he was the right person to serve as the religious leader of the people? In the end, we know that he continued to fill his role as High Priest until the day he died, and that he prepared his remaining sons to do the same. But what might have been going through his mind as he witnessed Korach's rebellion, as he saw the rebels swallowed by the earth and as he waited to see what would happen to his staff, as it stood in the mishkan together with that of the other tribal leaders?

Here is one possibility. Hopefully you will find it meaningful not only in terms of this parashah, but also with regard to issues of leadership and community which are so much in the forefront of national and worldwide dialogue at this time.

Shabbat Shalom.

blossoming from darkness to light
(revised 6/22/17)

I am here in darkness
why what have I done
I hear voices screaming pleading
seeing only darkness impenetrable
I am in the ground swallowed whole
I am not dead or perhaps I am

why did I do it
why didn't I run
why was I afraid of them
they were so persuasive
all are holy
we are holy
who is Aaron
who is Moses
we are all priests
all can serve God

yes we are all holy
yet all have different tasks
all can see and serve God
each in their own way

I didn't want to be high priest
above others
over the community

I don’t know what I wanted
then I heard their voices
becoming my voice proclaiming
we are holy
you have too much
we have not enough
you shall see
I saw firepans
smelled incense
searing burning
I knew what was happening
I sensed what might happen
now I can feel and see only darkness

I had seen God’s power before
moments of glory and terror
deliverance at the sea
plague and death in the desert

I knew the possibilities
yet I ignored my heart
I did not pay attention to its words
I heard only their words
Korakh Dathan Abiram
I became them              they were a part of me
they became my unconscious conscience
voice of unreason
smoldering incense
transformed into flaming earth
opening up       swallowing us
filling my mouth ears nose soul
with the dark smoke of oblivion

now I am here
forever beneath the surface
I do not know what is above
what exists          what is real

remaining still
listening waiting
it seems an eternity
I try reaching out up
my hand moves slightly
suddenly it breaks through the earth
shattering the shell encasing me
freeing me from living death

I feel air on my hand
my body remaining submerged underground
my soul my heart
remaining shrouded in darkness uncertainty
again I reach out
I grasp something
it pulls me up from the earth toward the light
the darkness pulls me down
wanting me to remain caught
torn        in between
eternal liminality

where do I belong
under here or up there
with them or with the others
I simply do not know

the force continues pulling me upward
powerful        unstoppable
leading me toward my unknown destiny

I emerge        birthed from my tomb
dirt falling off my clothing
the light the sun
I sense the shimmering
fire and cloud of Divinity
all blinding me still

unable to see
I hear a voice calling out a name
Aaron
is that me         I am bewildered
then I realize
that voice is pulling me up from the ground
telling me that I have been saved
dazed and puzzled
I look around me
I see the people my people
surrounding staring frightened wondering
why did I survive
I hear a voice whisper the answer
I have a mission

in that moment I know
I must show the people
we are all one       though each with a different role
none is special       holy      chosen
unless we all are equal
unless we all are one

in that moment I realized what saved me
what I held on to          what held on to me
my destiny still in my hands
shielding my eyes from burning light
I begin to feel the warmth of the Divine
in my heart and soul
in my hand I see a staff blossoming
I smell the sweetness of almond blossoms
awakening me reminding me of who I am
what I must do
how I must show those remaining
 the truth
we are One we are holy
that is the truth I can see          others try to see
what saved us all from destruction

the others are gone underground
devoured by their gods
ego hubris pride greed jealousy
that had blinded them to the truth
but their gods still exist within each of us
struggling to get out to take over to make us forget
the truth

in that moment I open my eyes not knowing when they closed
not know if all this was real or a dream
but knowing it is the truth
I am in the tent holding my staff firmly gently
smelling the sweet blossoms the breath of the Divine
not the dust of the earth the stench of death.

I am where I belong playing the role I most
an accident of birth or does God know something about me
which I do not

what I do know is that now in this moment in this place
I open my heart to God to holiness to the One
something they others could not can never do

I know now my body was never beneath the earth
but for a moment my soul was
as my ego tried to drag me down with them

as I look around now at my people I pray
that the radiance of my open heart will bathe them in its light
so heart by heart we open as one to the One
moment by moment soul by soul action by action
doing our best to create a holy people a priestly community
each of us blossoms created by God opening to God
each exquisite delicately strong divinely human
struggling trying reaching opening
to see to know the truth the beauty
of that which is beyond that which is within
what the others would not let them selves see
the holiness the One within us all





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