Swallow My Pride – Parshat Korach 5778 – Rabbi Eve Posen
Frozen’s Elsa makes it sound easy, but it’s hard to “let it go.” There will always be interactions with other people that leave you upset, confused, or emotionally beat down. When it feels like I’ve been wronged, I can hold a grudge like the best of them, and I don’t always have the easiest time moving on. For better or worse, I often hold myself accountable and dwell on what I may have done wrong or could have done differently for a different outcome. Rising above these moments challenges me to my core. I almost always feel better once I have risen up and worked toward being the “better person,” but the effort it takes can sometimes be monumental.
This basic human condition goes as far back as the Torah, at least. This week we read from Parshat Korah, the famous story of rebellion, betrayal, and leadership. The narrative details the revolt of Korach and of Datan and Aviram. 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 see a purpose to the fight pull away, which becomes a pretty smart idea as the earth opens up and swallows Korach and his followers.
As the rebellion is happening, Moses as the leader has a few choices to make. He can continue on his path as the leader and ignore the chaos; he can choose to confront and shame the rebellious parties; or he can try to engage with them and forgive, moving forward together.
In chapter 16, verse 12 we read that Moses sent for Datan and Aviram. Rashi interprets this verse in the following way:
Here we see the greatness of Moses’s soul. He set aside his own dignity and his feelings of resentment toward those who spoke ill of him and took the initiative to heal this breach in the community.
Moses took the high road. Moses is a leader through and through, and in this moment he chooses to lead by example.
Holding onto a grudge is easy. The challenge is to rise up and move beyond hurt emotions, anger, and pettiness. When we read the Torah portion this week, we’re reminded of our ability to rise up and the opportunity to make positive change. Be like Moses, as hard as it is, so that as we near the High Holidays, we practice what it truly means to forgive.