In this week’s Torah portion, Korach leads a rebellion. Although, in truth, Korach’s goal is power and prestige, he veils it within philosophical arguments and appeals to justice. He creates an argument that echoes throughout the camp and brings many people to his cause.
Korach marches to Moses with hundreds of followers and demands that Moses and Aharon step down from their positions.
In response, Moses rebukes Korach, saying the following:
Is it not enough for you that the God of Israel has set you apart from the community of Israel and given you direct access, to perform the duties of Hashem’s Tabernacle and to minister to the community and serve them? Now that He has advanced you and all your fellow Levites with you, do you seek the priesthood too? Truly, it is against Hashem that you and all your company have banded together. For who is Aaron that you should rail against him?Bamidbar 16:9-11
On the surface, this is a debate between Moses and Korach on who should be leader and how they should lead. Yet, when our Sages mention the debate, they call it “the argument of Korach and his congregation” rather than “the argument of Korach vs Moses” (Wisdom of Our Fathers 5:17).
Why do our Sages ignore Moses’ role in the conflict? Doesn’t it take two to tango?
It may take two parties for an argument to exist, but that does not mean that each party is being argumentative.
Moses knew the truth, he saw the self-serving deceit that was being thrown against him for what it was, and he held his ground. He didn’t cave in to social pressure and allow falsehood to win for the sake of peace. He took a principled stance and brought evidence (Hashem’s miracles) for his position.
Korach was being argumentative. Moses was defending the truth. There is a difference.
We may not have the same clarity as Moses to have Hashem telling us word for word what the right thing to do is at every step, but there are things you know to be unquestionably true. Things that a world of misinformation has led others to march militantly against. You don’t have to bend to their pressure.
To be clear, this doesn’t mean you should go out and debate with people. Moses didn’t go out of his way to create a conflict either. But if an argument comes to your doorstep, be a rock that stands for what is right rather than a leaf that blows with the whims of the times.
Rabbi A and the JET Team