07 July 2016
Korach’s challenge of Moses and Aaron’s leadership is at the center of this week’s Torah portion of the same name. More important than the mini-rebellion (which does not end well for Korach and his followers) is the fact that the community of B’nai Israel, though called by Korach to witness the challenge, does absolutely nothing. It’s as if they are indifferent to which man would continue to lead them. It is for this indifference, according to commentators, that God initially says to Moses, “Stand back from this community that I may annihilate them in an instant!”
Similar to the Sodom and Gomorrah story, a negotiation ensues, in which God changes his mind and spares all but the followers of Korach. In the face of evil, says the Torah, silence actually condones evil.
This week, we lost a great man in Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, teacher, author, Nobel laureate and a leading symbol of moral conscience. He became the most powerful voice of our generation by writing – and speaking – against the great evil of the Shoah, giving voice to the millions whose voices were stilled. But Wiesel didn’t stop there – he wrote about the plight of Soviet Jews in 1966, bringing their case to the world. He spoke out against indifference, evil and genocide throughout the world. He spoke quietly and powerfully; simply and eloquently. Two of his most famous quotes summarize his world view: “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented,” and, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”
Having an extraordinary leader like Elie Wiesel in our midst helps prompt us to take action. But sadly, he is gone, and now – as it has been since the days of Korach – it is up to each of us to speak for what is right.