Korach felt that Moses was wrong (see Torah Portion section below). He had grabbed too much power for himself. Korach felt he was a great man also. He too had a role to play and a contribution to make. Moses was preventing him from doing so. It all looked black and white to Korach. Moses was wrong and he was right.
And yet, as events played themselves out, Korach was proven to be wrong – very wrong. Such that the earth swallowed him alive. That’s pretty clear vindication for Moses and damning for Korach.
I think there is a fundamental lesson for all of us in Korach’s attitude and behaviour. Rarely do our egos say, ‘it’s wrong, but let’s do it anyway’. The ego, rather, explains why we are right. It shows us the clear justification of our position. And it’s oh so very convincing. It all looks so absolute. Such that one often sees people argue absolute opposite perspectives, each certain to the point of arrogance that they are right. When only one of them can be.
It’s disconcerting to consider that people can be so convinced about truth – and yet be wrong. Because that leaves open the door very wide for the same to be true of me. Does certainty about something make me right? Does the fact that I am convinced make me correct? There was a time in my life when I believed the answer to be yes. Now, I am less than sure.
It seems to me that the ego is the part of me that yearns for certainty. It is the part of me that wants to be right (and for others to be wrong). Because ‘truths’ make it feel secure and confident. My soul, on the other hand, seems to have less of a need for such absolutes.
Korach was certain he was right. Moses was ready to consider all options – so instead of arguing, he simply said let’s put it to the test and see who God chooses. And here was a key difference between Moses and Korach. Had God chosen Korach, Moses would not have minded. But Korach could not live with the idea of Moses being chosen. Korach, blinded by his own ego, could only see the world his way. Moses, the humble man, was always open to new possibilities.
In more recent years, I have come to see that with humility comes uncertainty. And openness. Openness to being wrong. Openness (dare I suggest it) to someone else being right. Or openness to the truth being less black and white than I might once have believed. For me, nowadays, there is one immutable truth – and that is God. Granted, that truth requires some definition and has broad implications. But, beyond that, all the rest is open for consideration. And so, I find myself trusting ‘certainty’ less and less; I see it as most likely my ego innocently seeking security. Funnily enough, doubt seems more genuine to me. More Godly. More honest. Doubt leads me to trust in God; certainty leads me to trust in myself.
There is a quiet confidence that doesn’t need to be shouted out or defended in the things that look true to me today. I have shifted away from Korach’s need for validation and vindication. I see the world more like Moses, trying to follow where God seems to be leading. I have no certainty as to where it will be – but strong conviction that it will be somewhere good.
Parsha in a Nutshell
This week’s portion is about the argument that Korach, Moses’s cousin, deliberately picked with Moses and Aaron. He claimed they were holding tightly on to power and allowing no one else to take part in the leadership of the Jewish People. The whole thing was just a pretext for an attack on Moses and potential coup d’etat. Had Korach taken over, he would himself have done exactly that which he accused Moses of doing. Korach’s little rebellion, however, ended up failing miserably when he and his followers were swallowed up by an earthquake – a pretty effective way of ending a dispute, but not one to try at home kids.