There is a moment in the Torah when a man named Korach speaks out and against Moses. In the middle of the desert, backed by two hundred fifty malcontented former slaves, Korach challenges Moses with these words:
“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 yourself above the Lord’s congregation?” (Numbers 16:3)
Now, one could make the argument that even when it comes to Moses, a superior position in leadership must be challenged at least every once in a while so that the leader and his followers do not become complacent. And one could argue that Korach and his band are following in the important footsteps bequeathed to them by the many upstarts of the earliest Israelites from Abraham through Joseph. However, there’s always the question of motivation. What was Korach’s motivation in this act? Its not clear but there is a hint. And it has to do with ego and presumption.
You see, Korach claims that the community IS holy and God IS in their midst as if to say, we’re already the best versions of ourselves. Its others who don’t get it. However the Torah has a different take on this issue. In the middle of the Book of Leviticus, in the spot that amounts to the literal middle of the Torah itself, we are taught about holiness – “You SHALL be holy for I, God am Holy.” Holiness is not a given state, it’s a state we are meant to seek, become and then seek again. Holiness is a striving; holiness is a barometer for how well we are doing in our humanness.
Donald Trump is a modern day Korach. He’s blustery and pig-headed, domineering and presumptuous. His very nature is pugnacious and punitive to those who would dare disagree with him. Why? Because, ironically, his external insistence on his value and worth has an inverse relationship to what he truly feels in his kishkes. “I am holy! Damn it! And so are those who stand with me and take my word as gospel. As long as I am surrounded by people too starstruck, uninformed or scared to think otherwise, I feel better about myself.” But in actuality, Donald Trump is an empty vessel, whose vain attempts at filling himself with money, accolades and reputation, have been dead ends. Screaming out at the Moseses of the world and demanding that they answer for why no matter how hard he works to fill his emptiness, he can’t. And that they are stealing love, attention and energy from him, the one who deserves it the most.
“Donald, this is your Rabbi speaking. I am so sorry that some really important people in your life failed to fill you with love and instead sold you a bill of goods based on the idea that he who dies with the most toys wins. The truth, bubbele, is that he who dies with the most toys is still dead.”
Korach and his 250 Israelites “went down alive into Sheol with all that belonged to them; the earth closed over them and they vanished from the midst of the congregation” (Numbers 16:33). While I do not hope for or pray for the deaths and disappearance of Donald nor his followers, I do pray that Donald finally sits with a therapist and comes to understand the shame that propels him to weave his very dangerous fabric. One that he is unwittingly creating, and one that if allowed to take root could suffocate and bury the much good in the world that has made xenophobia, homophobia, racism, sexism and so many other societal vices, unpopular, distasteful and in many contexts, illegal.
Happiness is never found in the diminishment of others. It may feel like a jolt but be careful – it’s just an infusion into a broken vessel.
(So glad you stumbled upon my blog. Please accept this personal invitation to Congregation Shma Koleinu’s upcoming Purim event, “Purim for Adults”, at St. Arnold Brewing Company on March 24th from 7-9. Click here to register.)