Shir Shel Shavua : Issue 9

June 16, 2023

Parasha Korach

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the latest edition of Shir Shel Shavua- a place to learn about and enjoy musical selections in honor of Shabbat, the Torah reading, and even the time of year.

Please let us know if you have a selection or song that is of interest and then Cantor Zim and I can respond on this very site!

In this week’s Torah portion, we read of the rebellion of Korach. The text shares the following:

Now, Korach, a Levite, along with two sons of Eliab, decided to rise up against Moses with the support of 250 community leaders. They combined against Moses and Aaron, saying “You’ve gone too far. Why do you raise yourself up above us?” When Moses heard this, he fell on his face, saying to Korach and his followers, “Come morning, God will make known who God is and who is holy.” Then Moses added, “You have gone too far, sons of Levi. Is it not enough that God has set you apart from the community of Israel by having you perform the duties of the Lord’s Dwelling Place? Will you seek priesthood too? Truly, you rebel against God.”

Ultimately, God’s wrath is directed towards Korach and his clan. We learn in the Mishna of Pirke Avot that the reason that Korach was judged so harshly was because his complaints were not for the sake of Heaven, but rather for his own sense of ego.

כָּל מַחֲלֹקֶת שֶׁהִיא לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, סוֹפָהּ לְהִתְקַיֵּם. וְשֶׁאֵינָהּ לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, אֵין סוֹפָהּ לְהִתְקַיֵּם. אֵיזוֹ הִיא מַחֲלֹקֶת שֶׁהִיא לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, זוֹ מַחֲלֹקֶת הִלֵּל וְשַׁמַּאי. וְשֶׁאֵינָהּ לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, זוֹ מַחֲלֹקֶת קֹרַח וְכָל עֲדָתוֹ:

“Every dispute that is for the sake of Heaven, will in the end endure; But one that is not for the sake of Heaven, will not endure. Which is the controversy that is for the sake of Heaven? Such was the controversy of Hillel and Shammai. And which is the controversy that is not for the sake of Heaven? Such was the controversy of Korah and all his congregation”.

While exercising one’s ego is not necessarily inappropriate in certain circumstances, our tradition shares that we cannot be only for ourselves, rather we must always take into consideration those around us and those who lead and share in our community. Unfortunately, Korach and his disciples did not take this teaching to heart.

In the words of Pirke Avot Hillel says, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I?” (Pirke Avot 1:14).

Enjoy this musical rendition of the text, composed by famous songwriter Debbie Friedman, which Korah apparently did not hear!

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