Parashat Korah 5783

June 19, 2023

Rabbi Rob Scheinberg

Way back in 2017 — which feels like a lifetime ago! — my synagogue started an initiative that we called “Have a Drink with a Political Opponent.” The concept was simple. We set up a simple online questionnaire which asked questions like: how do you identify yourself politically; what’s the political affiliation of someone you would like to have a calm, rational conversation with; what are some issues of special interest and some issues you don’t want to discuss; do you prefer wine, beer, or coffee. The program organizer then matched people up, and the synagogue offered to cover the cost of the drinks. We made it clear that this program was for dialogue, not debate: the goal was not to change anyone’s mind, but to better understand others and to have one’s own perspective understood by others. We created this program after hearing from many people in our community that they could not...

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Parashat Korah 5782

June 30, 2022

When the Law is Unjust, We Break the Law By Rabbi Lizz Goldstein (’16) Last week, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, withdrawing the already paltry federal protections on abortion rights. Many states already had trigger laws in place and abortion access became unavailable to thousands of people overnight. Congress had 50 years to codify federal legislation to allow reproductive freedom throughout the country. A leak of the current Supreme Court decision broke out about six weeks ago, allowing time for the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government, dominated by people who claim to support reproductive freedom and choice, to react before the decision was formally handed down. And yet, no preparations were made for this moment. Very few elected officials did anything to protect us, but so many were ready to wail and moan with us and ask for our votes and money as soon as...

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Parashat Korah 5781

June 11, 2021

Click HERE for an audio recording of this D’var Torah A D’var Torah for Parashat Korah By Rabbi Marc Rudolph (’04) On the evening of Friday, April 6, 1962, Leonard Bernstein was to conduct the New York Philharmonic in a performance of Brahms D minor Concerto. The guest soloist was Glenn Gould, one of the most celebrated classical pianists of the 20th century. Before the concert began, Mr. Bernstein did something that initially surprised, puzzled and frightened the audience. He spoke to them. Mr. Bernstein was in the habit of speaking to the audience only at Thursday night previews, so many in the audience thought that he was going to announce that the soloist had become ill. Instead, Leonard Bernstein told the audience that they were about to hear an “unorthodox performance” of Brahms D Minor Concerto, a performance unlike he had ever heard, or even dreamt of. Mr. Gould was going to...

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Parashat Korah 5780

June 26, 2020

A D’var Torah for Parashat Korah By Rabbi Bruce Alpert (’11) “The Torah of Adonai is perfect, reviving the soul,” reads the psalm (19:8). The word used here for perfection, temimah, implies completeness, but also simplicity, like a platonic ideal – something that exists in our minds but which can only be rendered in flawed representation here on earth. To change something that is perfect is to diminish it. Thus, the idea of perfection in revelation can lead one to a kind of fundamentalism that summarily rejects changes as thwarting, or at least diminishing, God’s will. Yet, the Torah that is the Book of Numbers challenges this conception of perfection. In last week’s parashah, we learned that the Israelites did not know what to do with one who violated the Sabbath and needed Moses’s intervention to find out (Numbers 15:32-36). In the previous parashah, the Israelites challenged Moses over who was disqualified from offering the...

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Parashat Korah 5779

July 3, 2019

Korah: Idealist or Demagogue? A D’var Torah for Parashat Korah By Rabbi Len Levin Korah’s words resonate with modern egalitarian sympathies: “For the congregation are all holy, and Adonai is among them; and why do you exalt yourselves over the congregation of Adonai?” (Numbers 16:3). In a previous Dvar Torah (AJR archive 2014) I explored the challenge that this presents for Jews faithful to the Torah narrative. If we are sincere in our commitment to egalitarian principles, we must at least examine if Korah’s arguments have merit. The biblical narrative does not look on Korah’s protest kindly. In that narrative, Korah’s rebellion against Moses’s authority is punished by his being swallowed up by the earth, together with all his followers and their property. If such punishment was deserved, then Korah’s arguments must have been insincere, crafted with the sole purpose of serving his personal ambition—a classic ploy of demagogues from...

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