At first glance, Korah and his band seemed to be at the forefront of a legitimate social justice movement. They are prepared to “fight the power,” as they say to Moshe and Aharon: “You have gone too far! For all the community are holy, all of them, and the LORD is in their midst. Why then do you raise yourselves above the LORD’s congregation?” (Numbers 16:3)
Since the story ends with the premature deaths of all those who challenge Moshe’s and Aharon’s leadership, it’s apparent that the Torah thinks that Korah’s protest wasn’t so legitimate after all. The classic reading of the episode is that Korah felt he should be the leader. His social protest barely masks his demagoguery.
While Korah teaches us the wrong way to speak truth to power, I recently had the privilege to participate in a meeting with officials of the US embassy in the Dominican Republic where the voices of victims of injustice were raised up in a much holier manner. At issue is the looming fate of hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent–a human rights crisis waiting to happen. (For more on this situation, you can read by clicking here).
On Shabbat morning, I’ll introduce you to Jenny, the director of legal services for MUDHA, an organization that supports Dominicans of Haitian descent and a grant recipient from American Jewish World Service (here’s a picture of Jenny at work). As I reflect on my experience in the Global Justice fellowship and on my trip to the DR, I’ll apply the lessons of Korah’s unjust protest to the work that remains to be done on behalf of people truly deserving of justice.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise