Korach and the Nature of Disputes

Korach and the Nature of Disputes

I grew up as part of a large family. Like many of my generation, we had our Cousin’s Club, our Family Circle and our inevitable family disputes. Although most disputes were ultimately resolved without too much added stress and anxiety; some disagreements were-unfortunately-long term. There are times when such disputes are unavoidable; initiated by relatives who act irresponsibly and egregiously beyond the possibility for reconciliation. However, much of the time our confrontations could either have been bypassed or resolved quickly; if only the disputants were willing to speak with each other. I would suggest that too often in our personal and professional lives, obduracy is the reason why we cannot resolve arguements. We simply cling to our opinions and refuse to resolve issues face to face. We enjoy some kind of sadistic pleasure in bearing a permanent grudge Our anger may be irrational but it is empowering.

Introducing Korach:
Cousin of Moses and patron saint of baseless hatred and resentment…

Korach was a Levite; blessed with status and standing within the wilderness community. Yet, he was not satisfied with his achievements. Rather, he believed that he deserved to become either political leader (instead of Moses) or Head Priest (instead of Aaron). His reasoning was simple: Korach’s grandfather had several children. The eldest child was father to Aaron, Moses and Miriam. The second eldest child was father to Korach. Korach, therefore, understood why Moses OR Aaron would be appointed to one of the two supreme leadership positions. However, because of family genealogy he expected the other leadership post to be his. We would think that after everything Moses has done for the nation; Korach would have approached Moses deferentially-with dignity and honor. Perhaps their conversation might have become somewhat spirited; but in the end, calmer and rational heads would prevail. Unfortunately, Korach took the dispute to extremes; not only precluding any chance for dialogue but publicly embarrassing Moses in the process. Korach’s behavior was unforgivable; and he ultimately paid the price.

Disagreement can be healthy; especially when disputants share a mutual respect and can sit down to resolve disagreements together. Sadly, too many of us think and act like Korach; playing out our disagreements in public with the intention of bringing shame to those who are the objects of our wrath.

Yes, some disputes are beyond resolution. In Korach’s case, he did not even try-and that is the tragedy of his character.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Klayman