The late Bostoner Rebbe Levi Yitzchak Horowitz shared this pithy story. A Hasid comes to the rebbe and says: ‘Rebbe, I dreamed that I became a rebbe,’ to which the rebbe replies: ‘Yes, but did any Hasidim dream it too?’ (Heilman, Who Will Lead Us, g. 92)
This week we read from Parshat Korah. Korah stages a rebellion and challenges the leadership of Moses and Aaron. The Parsha opens by telling us, (Num. 16:1-3) “Now Korah son of Izhar son of Kohath son of Levi, along with Dathan and Abiram sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—descendants of Reuben—took (ויקח) two hundred and fifty Israelite men, leaders of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well-known men, and they confronted Moses. They assembled against Moses and against Aaron, and said to them, ‘You have gone too far! All the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. So why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?’” Soon after this, Moses rebukes Korah (Num. 16:9), “Is it not enough for you that the God of Israel has set you apart from the community of Israel and given you access to Him, to perform the duties of the Lord’s Tabernacle and to minister to the community and serve them/הַמְעַט מִכֶּם, כִּי-הִבְדִּיל אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶתְכֶם מֵעֲדַת יִשְׂרָאֵל לְהַקְרִיב אֶתְכֶם אֵלָיו, לַעֲבֹד אֶת-עֲבֹדַת מִשְׁכַּן ה’ וְלַעֲמֹד לִפְנֵי הָעֵדָה לְשָׁרְתָם?”
The Sfas Emes* comments on this verse (Korah 5640). He notes that the phrase “Is it not enough for you/הַמְעַט מִכֶּם” can explain why Korah’s rebellion was so problematic. Taken on its own, “mikem/מכם” means “from you.” The Sfas Emes suggests that if the rebellion was just, the Torah would have said, “to you/lakhem/לכם.” Ultimately, Korah was attempting to seize power for himself so that he could take from the people (ויקח...מכם). Aaron understood why he was chosen as High Priest. He was chosen to serve; to receive holiness and help the people. Korah’s mistake was attempting to seize the office for his own personal gain.
As Jews, it is our charge to be a Kingdom of Priests/ממלכת כהנים. However the purpose of this role is to create connections between our world and worlds of higher spirituality. We are supposed to draw holiness into our world and help all those around us access it. Rabbi Irving Greenberg claims that we are “the vanguard of society” that should point towards redemption. We can only lead, if people follow. And they will only follow us, if we serve them. May this be a week of holy service to all those around us.
Shabbat Shalom and Hodesh Tov,
**Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter (15 April 1847 – 11 January 1905), also known by the title of his main work, the Sfas Emes (Yiddish) or Sefat Emet שפת אמת (Hebrew), was a Hasidic rabbi who succeeded his grandfather, Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter, as the Av beis din (head of the rabbinical court) and Rav of Góra Kalwaria, Poland (known in Yiddish as the town of Ger), and succeeded Rabbi Chanokh Heynekh HaKohen Levin of Aleksander as Rebbe of the Gerrer Hasidim.
Rabbi Ezra Balser has been the rabbi at Temple Beth Sholom since July 1, 2016. He received his “smicha” (ordination) in June 2017 from Hebrew College while also earning a Master’s Degree in Jewish Studies. He has also received the iCenter's Certification in Israel Education.