Don’t Shoot the Messenger – Parshat Korach 5784

Life as a public servant of sorts can be challenging when you try to please everyone all the time. It’s just not going to happen, and I’ve had to work to accept this over the years in order to manage my expectations. I am characteristically solution-oriented and a people pleaser. Hopefully, that doesn’t come as a surprise to those of you who know me well. But this also means I avoid confrontation at all costs. It sounds like hyperbole, but honestly, I really don’t like confrontation. Of course there are times in my role when I’m asked to enforce a rule or a decision. I’m not the be-all, end-all of Neveh Shalom; I work as part of a team and each team member works together.

Sometimes the team comes to a resolution that will please everyone, and other times, it just isn’t possible. And occasionally there are times when we miss the mark. Luckily those situations aren’t the majority, but that doesn’t necessarily prevent the shame that comes with thinking we got it all wrong. In those moments I’ve learned that part of being a leader is to know when to take a step back to reflect rather than to be immediately on the defensive. I have Moses to thank for setting this example in our Torah portion this week.

This week we read Parshat Korach, the narrative detailing the revolt of Korach. Korach breaks apart the priesthood and prepares a revolt, while Datan and Aviram, two other troublemakers, begin a revolt of their own. Chaos breaks out in the camp, and those who don’t align themselves with the revolution pull away, which turns out to be solid decision-making as the earth opens up and swallows Korach and his followers.

Early on, as Korach and his followers berate Moses and question his authority, Moses can be seen as becoming increasingly agitated and frustrated with his role. The last number of Torah portions have had people complaining for various reasons, and it’s clear that Moses is done. In chapter 16, verses 28 through 30, Moses probably should have stepped back and taken a break. Instead, he lashes out and passes the buck, practically screaming “It’s not my job, I didn’t make the rules! If you’re upset, take it up with God. I’m out!”

While it may have felt cathartic for Moses to release some tension, it was likely unhelpful for the angry mob to see their leader lose control. I can sympathize with both sides. Leaders often have heavy loads to bear, and every decision can’t be a perfect one. The lesson? Kindness and understanding is the winning combo, whether you’re in charge or not.

– Rabbi Eve Posen

Source: Don’t Shoot the Messenger – Parshat Korach 5784