Shabbat Korach – Rosh Chodesh: Miracles

July 4, 2024 by Jeremy Rosen
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One of the amazing features of the Torah, over and above its significance as the foundation of Judaism, is the way it conveys human nature with all its greatness and pettiness, triumphs and failures.

This week, we look at the Korach rebellion, in which there are three different groups of protesters, each with their own agenda.  Korach and the other Levites were fighting for a religious position and power. On Ben Pelet’s group represented the tribe of Ruben’s political fear of being replaced by the tribe of Judah. And Datan and Aviram were only concerned with their own physical, material interests. Another undercurrent was what we might call the universalists or maybe the Marxists, who think everybody should be on the same level and have the same status.

This serious rebellion against the established authority of Moses and Aaron reflects precisely the sorts of conflicts of opinion and commitment that divide us the Jewish people to this very day. The universalists do not identify with the nation, those animated by religious power and authority, and those whose values are the same material values as the secular Western world. Of course, my comparison is fanciful. But I hope makes a valid point.

The children of Israel faced a crisis of self-image coming out of slavery and subjugation in Egypt, passive and uncertain. Whenever there was a crisis, or things didn’t go as well as they’d hoped they were ready to give up.

Nevertheless, during the first year, they escaped from Egypt, arrived at Sinai, and had the national revelation. But almost immediately, they fell back into an idolatrous mindset. When it came to proceeding to the land of Canaan and not relying on everything to be provided for them, the facade of unity collapsed.

It was clear that the nation was simply not ready to take upon itself the burden of responsibility of running their own affairs within a land of their own. The result, of course, was that they were sent back into the wilderness for another generation to prepare themselves psychologically and physically for what would happen 40 years later. The defeat of the major enemies that stood in their way on the East Bank of the Jordan was the test of their metal before invading Canaan.

When Moses was faced with this rebellion his first reaction was to “fall on his face” both in resignation and in supplication to God. God’s response was to give him the confidence to stand up to them. He tries first, to reason with them. When this fails the miracles of the earth opening up, the fire that consumed the Levites who brought the censors and the staffs that flowered and produced almonds finally ended the revolt and restored order.

In those days, miracles were evident( or at any rate, people were primed to expect them), and that solved the problem. But now both in the diaspora and in Israel we are faced as never before with all our internal divisions and the increasing tsunami of hatred and denial of our rights across the world. With constant demonstrations that call for our elimination and no one really standing with us in total support.

The picture looks so bleak from almost every point of view it is not surprising that more and more of us are looking for miracles because we can see no rational logical fair resolution we turn to prayer.

Prayer is a wonderful tool both of self-validation and connecting with spiritual energy beyond the physical world. But it’s not a tool that can guarantee anything. Similarly, the dream of a Messiah may give us a sense of hope, but we have no guarantees. Besides as the Talmud says, “Ein Somchin Al HaNes.” We cannot and should not rely on miracles ( TB Pesachim 64b. Kidushin 39b). Not only but we should  not put ourselves in a dangerous position and rely on a miracle to happen. Maybe it won’t” (TB Shabbat 32a. Tosfot Ketubot 30a).It is up to us to be proactive in our lives and take the steps necessary for our self-defense and well-being and not rely on miracles to solve our problems.

Not everyone is suited or equipped to deal with every threat, whether it is physical, political cyber. But we must all be prepared to rise to the challenge and do whatever we can to play our part no matter how holy! We never know how things are going to work out and we may be surprised by turns of events that we didn’t expect. Yes, I hope for miracles, but I know one cannot rely on them!!!

Numbers Chapter 16:1-18:31

Rabbi Jeremy Rosen lives in New York. He was born in Manchester. His writings are concerned with religion, culture, history and current affairs – anything he finds interesting or relevant. They are designed to entertain and to stimulate. Disagreement is always welcome.

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