Skip to content

Rebellious me


Here is the story of this week’s Torah portion in a nutshell: Korach started a rebellion. He, along with ringleaders Datan & Aviram, plus 250 non-priestly men of name and stature, stood before Moses & Aaron and declared Too much for you! All the people in the community are holy and God is among them too. Why do you set yourselves above the community?

Moses: Now you’ve gone too far! Isn’t it enough that you’re leaders? Now you want to be priests as well? Well, fine. Show up tomorrow with incense in your pans and we’ll see whose offering that God accepts.

Datan & Aviram: We’re not going anywhere. You didn’t bring us to a land of milk & honey (that old chestnut). We’re not falling for any more of your tricks.

Moses to God: I didn’t do anything to deserve this. You have got to take my side.

Moses to the rebellious: Oh yes you will show up!

God to Moses & Aaron: Not again! I’ve had it! Let me at ’em!

Moses & Aaron to God: Whoa, big guy. We didn’t mean for you to wipe out the entire Israelite community, just the complainers.

Long story short: God opens up the earth, thus swallowing up Korach & his lieutenants, all 250 of the conspirators, and all their families. Whoosh! Gone. Next day, the freaked out Israelites raise the obvious question: where’s the justice in all this? Why the overreaction? Are we next? God loses it, sends a plague, kills 14,700 people before Moses & Aaron can make expiation for the public outcry. For a few moments anyway, order is restored.

So, though my Rebbe & friend Arthur Waskow is interested in how the “planting” of Korach might lead to new understandings of how change happens; and though Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg includes a spectacular chapter about Korach & his “sin” of non-speech in her new book; and while (because?) all the traditional commentaries speak of Korach as a problem child…

I wrote a poem celebrating rebellion. Celebrating. Rebellion. Celebrating all the crazy-ass people who challenge the status quo every which way, rightly or wrongly: who create art and alternative institutions and truth-telling blogs and fabulous slogans that challenge the way we think. An uncomplicated, proud, indulgent, poem called Praise the Contrary & Its Defenders. Rock on, troublemakers, rock on!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. judith rose permalink
    06/07/2010 12:28 pm

    so who do we want to be when we grow up? Nachshon who parts the red sea or Korach who is swallowed up by the earth? How do we know NOW is the time for action? When we are young and naive, we think we can change by storming the building, protest and petitions. When we are older, we realize all the missed opportunities for change. Times when we were silent. Whether you hear an inappropriate comment or see a wrongful action — it happens too quickly, you ignore the situation, you don’t want to say anything bad about someone, you don’t think it is your place to speak, or you place yourself above or outside of the equation – i.e. this is not my problem. But you will think about the situation, replay the event, and perhaps say “I only wish I had said or done” or “next time I will…” because the courage of convictions often takes years to develop. One day something will happen and because you did not speak out; something worse will happen and there will be a direct correlation between what you did do and what you might have done. You will know that next time; you must speak out; regardless of the pain it might cause to you or to others. I think we are empowered to take risk; we are empowered to ask the questions; its the unpredictability of the answers that can be problematic.

    • sue swartz permalink*
      06/07/2010 4:09 pm

      Who do we want to be indeed? Also: is it the Korach or the Nachson part of our selves that moves us toward making change? Speaking truth to power? Annoying the hell out of friends? Great question and even greater description of what happens when we don’t speak up and in under what circumstances.

      Further: love your midrash about the 2 characters. Love it.

  2. Bruce Solomon permalink
    06/07/2010 3:57 pm

    Wow, Judith. Your juxtaposition of the Red Sea, parting briefly to let Nachshon and the newly liberated Israelites survive to reach freedom—versus the ground parting briefly to swallow up Korach and his grousing followers, depriving them of life and freedom both—is fabulous! Never occurred to me before, but what a great insight. There’s a very deep midrash in there I’m sure, and I will ponder it carefully. Thanks!

  3. judith rose permalink
    06/09/2010 2:20 pm

    so now I have to look up what a ‘midrash’ is and how it relates to what I wrote. lots of definitions – commentary, drash, reconciliation of several stories, etc. this is all a learning process — goal is to ‘keep my head above the water’!

    • sue swartz permalink*
      06/09/2010 10:33 pm

      Midrash = filling in the blanks in the white spaces of the text. The story of Nachshon, for instance, appears nowhere in the Torah, but is rather a commentary/midrash added later and absorbed into the canon of how we understand the parting of the Red Sea.

      Welcome to the midrash club!

  4. Diane David permalink
    06/12/2010 8:45 pm

    Rock on, Sisters and Brothers! Rock ON!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: