Shabbat Shalom! I’m really excited to have my Bat Mitzvah, and today I’m going to share some of the knowledge I’ve gained with you. I’m going to be talking about Parashat Korach, when Korach led a rebellion to overthrow Moshe as leader of the Jewish people. I will also talk about how the lessons in the parashah connect to some of my personal interests.
Korach was Moshe and Aaron’s cousin, so he thought he had the right to be powerful, as they were from the same tribe and family. Korach had three main followers, Datan, Aviram and On. Strangely, this is the only time that On is mentioned and after this point, he completely disappears from the story. In the commentary, it tells us that his wife may have helped him to change his mind about being in the rebellion.
It says in the Midrash, ‘the wives always have an effect on the husbands’. Wives are often described as “ezer kenegdo” which means ‘the helpers who go against him’. This may sound weird but it means that sometimes the wives needed to argue with their husbands if they felt that they were making the wrong decision. You don’t always help someone by saying “Yes” to everything. It is similar to the way a parent says no to some of their child’s requests because they know it’s bad for them.
On’s wife’s point of view must have had a strong influence on him because he drops out of the story and wasn’t killed. I think that it is important to show that women have had a big impact on society, and even before they won the power to vote women still were able to get their voices heard.
When the rebellion starts, Korach, Datan and Aviram argue with Moshe and Aharon. Korach thought he was amazing and superior to everyone else, so he wanted to be leader, while Moshe was humble and modest.
I can understand how Moshe being chosen by Hashem as the leader may have been surprising to some people. He wasn’t a great speaker, he didn’t grow up in the community, and he was humble and shy. Hashem knew Moshe’s potential, that he was right for the job and would make the best decisions for the Jewish people. Moshe had a lot of very good leadership qualities that I will talk about through my D’var Torah.
For those who don’t know, I love rock climbing but it can be a nerve-wracking hobby! Sometimes, when I am climbing bouldering walls, a short wall with no rope, I get scared and can't reach the next hold. However, my Dad encourages me to reach the next hold and then I get it! I trust my dad to make the right decisions, and to help me to achieve my potential. I also know that if I follow his advice and end up falling off the wall, he will feel guilty about it!
Korach says a lot of painful comments to Moshe and Aharon. A psychologist will tell you that if someone is criticising someone else, it’s likely to be a reflection of a quality they don’t like in themselves. For example, Korach accuses Moshe and Aharon of being hungry for power when he actually wants it himself. If someone is always negative about others and they are nasty to you it’s not likely to be personal because this is their problem. Moshe also understands that Korach is angry at Hashem and taking it out on him. He does not get mad at Korach and handles the situation in a calm way.
Another important message we can take from this parashah is that everyone is equal and you should treat everyone the same, with kindness. When he is speaking to Hashem about his shock at the rebellion, Moshe says, ‘I never took a donkey from them’. He was referring to how when the Jews were walking through the desert, Moshe didn’t use his power to take someone else’s donkey to help his family if they were tired. He treated himself the same as everyone else.
Another aspect of Moshe’s humility is when we see him call Datan, Aviram and On to him, but when they refused to come, he went to see them himself. This teaches us that in an argument, both sides can take responsibility for solving the situation. If the other person isn’t willing to come to you, go out to them. Never assume that an argument will last forever, there is always time to try to make peace and improve the relationship between you.
This made me think of the Israeli Mountain climber, Doron Erel, who took part in a project called ‘Breaking the Ice’. This involved 6 Palestinians and 6 Israelis, who climbed to the top of an unconquered mountain in Antarctica, to prove that the two groups could get along.
As well as climbing, I also love reading, and one of my favourite books is The Book Thief by Markus Suzak. Liesel is 9 years old and she lives with her foster parents, Hans and Rosa on Himmel Street, in Nazi Germany. She likes to steal books as she can’t afford to buy them and wants to read. Hans and Rosa take in a Jewish man called Max who hides in the basement. They pretend to support Hitler to keep everyone safe. Liesel becomes good friends with Max who writes books for her to enjoy. This book is narrated by death, which I thought was a unique concept.
Hans is kind, honest and patient. He often takes risks for other people, and is very brave. Rosa is extremely caring, protective and has a determined nature. Liesel is similar to her foster parents in her personality, and also good at handling difficult situations. I have learnt from these characters that you should always try to do the right thing, both publicly and privately.
When I was preparing for my D’var Torah, I decided to do some research on Jewish rock climbers to see if I could find a link between them and the lessons in my parashah. I discovered that Oscar Eckenstein helped to make some of the techniques that I use today, and may have even introduced small holds into climbing! He actually set up the first formal bouldering competitions.
Another interesting thing I found out was that Oscar Eckenstein didn’t publicise his climbing even though normally good climbers would tell everyone how amazing they are and show off what they can do. This reminded me of the humility of Moshe. Arrogant people never compliment others in case it takes away from them, but in reality that is never the case. Imagine two people holding candles, but only one of them is lit. If you bring the wicks together and pass the flame, both candles will burn brightly. Complimenting others doesn’t take away from your light, it makes everyone shine.
Towards the end of the parashah, we hear that Korach, Datan, Aviram and all their families are swallowed into the ground. Korach’s jealousy has cost him everything. This reminds us to be thankful and appreciate everything we have. If you start being taken over by envy, remember you are fine as you are!
Despite the dramatic themes of earthquakes and splitting rocks, I have really enjoyed learning about Parashat Korach. One aspect I will definitely take into my future life is what makes a good leader. I have learnt that it is important to show humility, spread kindness, to take responsibility in resolving situations, and have a strong impact on society. Sometimes you need someone more experienced to guide you in making the right choices and I am very grateful to my parents for helping me make important decisions, such as what schools I go to. In the future, I hope to become involved with my community and school, like my parents.