Parshat Korach: Sins of the Parents Are No Excuse
When most of us reach our later teens and early twenties, we begin to reflect on the role our parents played in our lives. Hopefully, we acknowledge their dedication to us and to our well-being, but we also look critically at their foibles and idiosyncrasies to explain flaws in our own personalities. We hold our parents accountable for our bad tempers, our hypochondria and our obsessions. While some of the above are inherited to varying degrees, we need to assume responsibility for our own lives. The professions we choose, the friendships we cultivate and the interests and values we develop largely depend on us and not merely on conditions we experienced as children.
On the theme of personal accountability, we can cite an example from Korach, the insurrection leader from our Torah portion. Korach was Moses’ first cousin. As an esteemed Levite, Korach and his family were responsible for many of the ritual objects vital to the spiritual future of Am Yisrael. Tragically, Korach was not satisfied with his status. He believed that due to family lineage, he was entitled to be High Priest (instead of Aaron) or CEO (instead of Moses). Korach expressed his displeasure by collecting a bunch of malcontents and rebelling against his cousin. By virtue of his impetuous behavior, Korach met an ugly demise – along with the individuals who followed him.
What fascinates me is not only the tragedy of Korach, but the aftereffects on his children. We learn nothing about them in the portion, yet later on in the Bible Korach’s sons are introduced as the authors of various Psalms. It seems that despite Korach himself, his children were loyal citizens and proud Levites. They contributed some of the most inspirational poetry in the history of Jewish literature. Had they followed in their father’s footsteps, the sons of Korach would not even be a footnote in history. Instead, there are eleven Psalms ascribed to the children of Korach. At least in this example, the sins of the parent are not embraced by the children….
So, the next time we dismiss our behavior as an inevitable byproduct of our upbringing, remember the children of Korach. Our parents may help shape our lives, but when it comes to ultimate paths we choose, only we are accountable.
For more information about this and other intriguing subjects, join us on Saturday morning for our Shabbat service. We begin at 9:30 am.