Today is August 20, 2019 -
God told Abraham of his plans to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham said, “Will you destroy the righteous with the wicked?”
This rather famous story kicked off millennium of Jewish civil arguments.
Our Talmud is filled with discussions and arguments among our ancestors. Most famously, the House of Hillel and the House of Shammai disagreed on nearly every topic. One famous story tells of the Heavenly Voice heard during the heat of a discussion that said, “Elu v’elu…” “These and these are the words of the living God,” implying the sanctity of their discussion, or God’s approval of their argument.
The Talmud continues, “Any dispute which is for the sake of Heaven will ultimately endure, and one which is not for the sake of Heaven will not ultimately endure. What is a dispute for the sake of Heaven? This is a debate between Hillel and Shammai. What is a dispute not for the sake of Heaven? This is the dispute of Korach and his assembly.”
So, what did Korach do? Why does his dispute go down in history as such a horrible catastrophe?
We read in this week’s parsha that Korach and his people rose up before Moses and questioned his leadership. But, they didn’t merely question his ideals and vision, they personally attacked Moses and his character. God, apparently having no patience for such behavior, punished Korach. “The earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men who belonged to Korach, and all their goods.”
Friends, I fear that we live in Korach-esque times. Civil discourse is rarely embraced. Personal attacks have become the norm. Politicians certainly don’t help. If our role is to be a “light unto the nations,” I fear that our people involved with the conflict at the Kotel are not helping either. I simply cannot accept that any of these discussions is for the “sake of Heaven.” Disagreements are ok. Our history shows that God likes them. But, we have to get back to debating the issues and away from attacking each other.