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Torah Talk


The sacred narrative of our Torah is no stranger to dramatic episodes.  In this week's Torah portion, we encounter one of the more dramatic such lessons.

A man named Korach, together with a group of followers, come before Moses and Aaron to question their leadership and authority. To be sure, Korach presents a powerful argument, saying to Moses, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above God’s assembly?”

Moses’ reaction is surprising: “When Moses heard this, he fell face down.”

The Israelites are in the middle of a potential full-scale rebellion—and Moses prostrates himself? What is happening?

Rabble Shneur Zalman of Liadi explains Moses’s actions in this way: “…he first fell on his face for self-reflection, to see if in truth he had any arrogance. After he thoroughly checked himself, and found no trace of pride, he understood that he [Korach] was not a messenger from On High, but was a divider [of people], and so he answered as he did.”

In other words, Moses prostrated himself to take the time—a proverbial “counting to ten”—to consider the possibility that Korach may have some truth to his argument. In the end, Korach’s challenge does not have validity, and Korach, and his followers, are held accountable for their selfish actions which pulled apart the community.

There is a timeless lesson for us: what Rabbi Schneur Zalman helps us to realize is that by “counting to ten”, we take the time to learn from all critiques, even when they are challenging. In this way, we hold ourselves accountable to being the best people we can be. Indeed, “counting to ten” does serve us well!

~ Rabbi Allison Vann

Thu, June 21 2018 8 Tammuz 5778