19 June 2015
I hate hate.
We read with horror the attack of a lone gunman on congregants in the historic African-American Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, resulting in 9 deaths. It is being treated – as it should – as a hate crime. Our deepest prayers are with the victims and their families, and we are grateful to law enforcement officials for apprehending the suspect so quickly. According to the Department of Justice, there are approximately 300,000 (!) hate crimes reported annually in the United States, with African-Americans being the most targeted group.
As Jews, we know all too well the danger and impact of hate. We understand how hate transforms individuals, communities and countries into irrational and dangerous forces of evil. We understand what it is like to be the target of such hatred and we watch with growing concern the rise of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity in Europe and in the United States.
This week’s parasha is Korach, in which the protagonist by the same name challenges Moses and Aaron’s leadership. Along with 250 elders, Korach claims he has an equal right to lead the people. This ends rather badly for Korach and his followers, with God opening the earth to swallow them all up.
More interestingly, however, is the lack of action by the rest of the community. The text does not say that the people supported Korach and his followers, but it does not say that they opposed him either. Perhaps an important message of this week’s portion is not so much about Korach’s evil challenge to authority, but rather, the lack of challenge to him by the rest of the community. “Standing idly by” de facto condones such behavior. From the Kitty Genovese murder in 1964 to current-day reports of unchallenged outrages in our society, “getting involved” has never been a strong human trait.
That’s exactly the point. For it is only by standing up to evil and hate with words and action that we can overcome such tendencies and preserve our society with dignity and hope for the future.
Ways to Make it Yours
Follow the adventures of our June DC Community Birthright-Israel trip from June 14-24.
Bite into Father’s Day brunch this weekend with a new twist on the lox & bagel classic – aSmoked Salmon Pizza!
Join local families with young children for ice-cream, crafts and story time at PJ Library®’s Sweet Summer Series.
Celebrate Shabbat with other interfaith couples in DC for a family-friendly, vegetarian Shabbat experience on Friday, June 26.