~ Rabbi Shefa Gold's Torah Journeys ~
NUMBERS 16:1 - 18:32
This Torah portion tells the story of Korach who led a rebellion against Moses
during the journey through the wilderness. Moses accepts the challenge. The
earth opens up and swallows the rebels whose firepans are beaten into coverings
for the altar. Each of the twelve tribes sets up a rod marked with their name
before the Tent of Meeting. In the morning Aaron's rod has budded, blossomed,
and produced ripe almonds.
WHAT IS THE BLESSING that comes from full-out rebellion? Whining,
complaining, foot-dragging, depression, and debilitating exhaustion are
pushed aside as Doubt stands up and cries aloud, "Let's put my truth to
Korach airs all the doubt that has been festering within us. He stirs it
up and lets it be heard. Hidden doubt eats us up from the inside, draining
strength that we need for the journey. When our righteous indignation
mixes with fear and greed and envy and ambition, and brings all those
feelings out into the open, then all those deep-seated places of slavery
can be transmuted by compassion and wise perspective. We can then
embark on a path of healing.
Korach forces the hand of Truth. Without Korach, we grumble along,
swallowing our bitter questions and doubt, and gradually lose our vision
and power. Korach represents a stage of development that is crucial to
finding our voice. Korach's fate is ambiguous; it is not clear whether this
quintessential rebel is punished or dies. In our tradition, Korach, the
apparent villain of the story, is nevertheless tendered the great honor of
having his name associated with twelve of the most beautiful psalms.
Clearly, the one who found his voice passed this facility on to his children
who became great singers in the Temple.
KORACH IS THE POWER IN US THAT HAS NOT YET MATURED, which has
not yet been tempered by humility. In one of those psalms, Korach's children
describe the nature of power that has finally matured. "Kindness
and Truth are met together," they sing. "Justice and Peace have kissed."1
As a young rebel, my truth sometimes lacked kindness. My passion for
justice sometimes shattered peace. Yet what a blessing it was for the power
of Korach to rise in me and teach me that my pointed challenges and
questions were holy. Over a lifetime of mistakes and repentance, wisdom
gradually emerges to call together kindness and truth and to kindle the
love between justice and peace.
The firepans, used for offering by those who joined Korach and who
died in the fire of rebellion, were later hammered into plating for the
altar of sacrifice. Gathered from the charred remains of confrontation,
the firepans had become holy. Searching through the rubble of my own
rebellions, I find that a great deal of my arrogance has been burned up
in the fires of experience, but there in the ruins I also find treasures: my
passion for truth, my holy questions.
THE SPIRITUAL CHALLENGE
OUR CHALLENGE IS TO ALLOW OUR KORACH VOICE TO EMERGE in its
time and to listen carefully to its nascent power. Be aware of what danger
you unleash, as well as the potential for refinement and maturity. Listen
to the sound of your impatience, your ambition, your jealousy, your greed.
Also hear its passionate life-force.
"Korach took..."2 are the first words of this portion. Grammatically,
the "taking" in this verse has no object. Taking, here, is a description of
Korach consciousness - power that has not yet matured. Korach's untempered
drive is the slavery from which he must free himself.
In his book Ishmael, Daniel Quinn divides the world into Takers and
Leavers. Takers base their power on the fundamental misconception that
they are separate from the world and that the world was created for them.
Takers exert their power by consuming the world.
Our spiritual challenge then, is to call forth our raw power and engage
in the process of its maturation. To do this we must shatter the myth of
our separateness and begin to know ourselves in connection. And we
must be able to discern the damage that our "taking" has done.
In the aftermath of Korach's rebellion, Aaron, as High Priest, takes
his stand between the dead and the living, and thus ends the plague. The
plague of our own time is the unchecked immature power that threatens
to consume the world. To stand as High Priest between the dead and the
living is to know clearly the destructive aspect of our power and to take a
stand in fierce loving protection of the sacredness of all life.
THE FINAL TEST OF POWER is whether it is life-giving. In the story of
Korach, God devises a test to discern the face of mature power. Each of
the twelve tribes places its own staff , a symbol of its power, into the holy
center of the community. The next day it is revealed that Aaron's staff has
sprouted, blossomed, and produced almonds.
This is how we know when our own power has matured. We look
for the sprout, the blossom, and the fruit. What have we grown by our
power? What beauty have we brought into the world? And how, with our
power, have we nurtured ourselves and others?
GUIDANCE FOR PRACTICE
REFINING THE REBEL WITHIN
This week of Korach sends me to memories of those times I was called rebellious.
I remember my confusion; my only aim was to speak my truth and fight
against what I perceived as hypocrisy. Now I see that I lacked patience, compassion
and humility, but my intentions were good and the passion that moved
me came from the sacred core of Divine Essence within me.
THE PRACTICE FOR THIS WEEK of Korach is to dig up the rebel buried
within you and combine her essence with the specific qualities that you
have worked long and hard to develop.
REMEMBER YOUR OWN PASSION which may have, over time, been dampened
by life's disappointments.
REMEMBER THE REBEL you once were and the energy that moved through
you at that time. In the portion of Korach, the earth opens her mouth and
swallows the rebels. They are planted in the ground like seeds, waiting
for just the right conditions to grow into their fullness.
IMAGINE THE REBEL YOU ONCE WERE as a seed planted deep in the
ground. Now you can bring to that seed exactly the qualities that would
help it grow.
YOU CAN WATER IT WITH PATIENCE, shine on it the light of compassion,
and fertilize the soil with all the shit you've been through.
1 Psalm 85:11
2 Numbers 16:1
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Rabbi Shefa can be reached by email at: Shefa@RabbiShefaGold.com
Rachmiel O'Regan can be reached by email at: CDEEP@RabbiShefaGold.com
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