Korach, our Torah parashah this week, seemingly examines what happens to those who complain. The leader of the rebellion, also from the tribe of Levi, a cousin of Moshe, challenges his authority. Korach asks the question – “Isn’t this entire assembly a holy people.” Are we not equal? It is a question that resonates with all of us as we read this section of Torah, perhaps especially today. We remember Miriam’s fateful words to Moshe as she too challenged Moshe, saying, “Didn’t God speak to us as well?”
How do we hold the tension that all Israel carries kedoshim, holiness? Some, it would seem, are more equal than others.
Today, in this age of equal opportunity, of weighted hiring campaigns to protect previously unrepresented classes of people, these words may carry particular poignancy. And whilst Judaism as it has evolved, commands us to appreciate the value of equal dignity for all peoples, it also recognizes a particular form of meritocracy, that of learning and leadership.
Moses was approached by God. God appeared to Moses in the most humble of manners – a small burning bush – perhaps to make the point that the Divine Presence did not require golden sceptres and ermine robes to establish the authority of command. Moses, a man who had difficulty with speaking words, was able to hear God’s word. Most of us hear through many layers of secondary sources, as it were. Korach, even Miriam, as close as they were to Moses, had not been chosen by God to lead their people.
The struggle for us today is to bring these ideals of access, of equality of dignity and purpose forward, whilst also holding the value of an earned meritocracy. This does not mean that all are called to the same work, the same avodah, or service. Not at all. Be the best shoemaker you can be. Be the best horticulturalist you can be. Be the most loving parent you can be.
Lean into what may seem to be your greatest challenges, and like Moshe Rabbeinu, try to transform those ‘weaknesses’ into your greatest strengths. In doing so, we will all be blessed.