20 June 2017
This week’s parasha is Korach, in which the protagonist by the same name challenges Moses and Aaron’s leadership. Along with 250 elders, he claims he has an equal right to lead the people. It 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 people. The text does not say that they 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. Only by standing up to evil with both words and action can we overcome such tendencies and preserve our society with dignity and hope for the future.