Adapted from Meta Parshyot 5755 by R David Wolfe-Blank z’L
This Torah portion reports yet another uprising against Moshe. Korah envied his position and faulted Moshe and Aharon in their leadership style, even suggesting they were self-appointed dictators. He challenged them, “What right do you lord it over everyone else when the whole congregation is holy?”. Korah seemed to want a democratic, perhaps leaderless, group. He was supported by Datan and Aviram from the tribe of Reuven.
According to Ibn Ezra, this was about the great controversy that arose when the Levites replaced the firstborn in performing sacred rites in Mishkon. Korah’s rebellion was the firstborn’s protest against forfeiting their temple service to the Levites.
The midrash (Talmudic era Torah commentary) says Korah was a bit of a performance artist. Since Torah teaches that one of the fringes of the tallit should be t’kheylet (sky blue), he argued that if the whole tallit was t’kheylet, perhaps none of the fringes needed to be t’kheylet. This parallels his point that if everyone was holy, then a high priest who was “extra holy” was not required. He made his point by dressing 250 people in t’kheylet tallitot (plural for tallit) and appearing with them before Moshe. Moshe responded, ‘even if a tallit is sky blue, it still needs a sky-blue thread on one of its tzitzit – even if all the people are holy, they still need a leader.’
Korah’s rebellion took place during Israel’s sojourn in Kadesh-Barnea. They remained in this place for 19 years, the most extended stop in their 40-year journey; for about an equal amount of time, they wandered from place to place through the desert.
HAVAYAH RULED, RULES, AND WILL RULE
Tired of being subservient to Moshe and Aharon, Korah wanted a different order of authority. He had a problem with the established chain of service and the specific individuals. He wanted to create a new blanket policy for the nation, missing the benefit of individual skillsets. Identifying skills and deploying people through this awareness is worth the effort. It helps the people as well as the greater community.
Korah also missed that The Holy One of Blessing – who provided for the people’s day-to-day needs – had already established a trusting, close, personal relationship with Moshe. There is a uniqueness in the relationship. Torah demonstrates that The Holy One cared about Moshe’s wellbeing. For example, The Holy One admonished Miriam and Aharon when they spoke negatively about Moshe. The impetus for change was external to the connection between Moshe and The Holy One. There was no place for this to take hold.
KORAH AS A PERFORMANCE ARTIST
A Torah Verse says that one of the fringes on a tallit (corner) must be sky blue. According to a midrash, Korah dressed 250 people in sky blue tallitot. He reasoned that if the entire tallit was sky blue, perhaps none of the tassels need be t’khaylet.
The meta-message here is that if the entire community is holy, as Torah says, then everyone is equal, and leadership is not needed. Equal maybe, but he misses the point that everyone has a unique role to fill. If you have every served on a committee or board it quickly becomes clear that someone has to lead for things to get done. We may all be holy, but we are not all the same. Each individual has unique skills; each skill is a gift that can benefit the community. This diversity is something to be celebrated. Any nuance is lost in this blue-on-blue tallit demonstration.
BLANKET LAWS POST-ROE
Blood tests, chemotherapy, pap smear, radiation therapy, colonoscopy, surgery, abortion, and appendectomy are not one size fits all. The way they are done are unique in that all require and merit individual attention and planning. Just as it is irresponsible to say we are all holy and so need no leader, so too it is to limit medical procedures in a sweeping uniform decision. Each case is unique. Each individual is unique. One size does not fit all.
There are a variety of choices involved in any medical procedure. It takes time, information, and clarity to make a decision. These choices can be difficult and the information confusing even under the best circumstances. Government has nothing to add that will help, and it will hurt. Their presence is a source of interference that sucks attention and focus away from the mothers’ needs. It is a waste of everyone’s time.
The elimination of the protections Roe is an attack on personal freedom in the US. People will die due to this barbaric “one size fits all” ruling. It is only a beginning. More restrictions are already mentioned. Women are impacted now; it is only a matter of time before other groups will be put at risk needlessly.
FREEDOM OF CHOICE and PRIVACY
HEALTH CARE CHOICES ARE PERSONAL & NONE OF THE GOVERNMENT’S BUSINESS
Privacy is defined as “the state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people:’ It is a human right for both women and men to share what we wish with whomever we want to, and not at all with those we do not wish to share with.
There are many reasons that may cause a woman to abort a pregnancy. She should have to explain her decision-making process to anyone. It is cruel and demeaning to limit access to health care at these most tender moments.
PREGNANCY TERMINATION FROMA JEWISH PERSPECTIVE.
We can learn about a Jewish perspective on abortion by examining practices related to infant death. There is a variety of approaches amongst the greater Jewish community. Orthodox tradition is referenced here as they are more strict than other groups.
When a baby is delivered alive and dies before 30 days of life formal mourning is not required by tradition, though burial is.
An infant is not considered “alive” until thirty days have passed. This being true, a fetus is not a human being in the eyes of Jewish tradition. If there is a risk of loss of life, the mother’s life is tended to first.
Jewish Renewal, Reconstructionist, Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jews very often provide compassionate care and customized mourning when a loss of an infant is suffered today.
Anyone who has miscarried or lost an infant will tell you that this loss is very difficult and can be devastating. It calls for Nehamah; compassionate care. Contemporary Jewish Organizations are proactively addressing this need in a variety of ways.
This is a response to changing times. In 1800 CE The average woman gave birth to between 5 to 7 children. Sadly, parents typically lost 2 or 3 of their children in the first few years of life. Such loss was not a rare occurrence but common for most people across the world. They handled it pragmatically, by birthing more babies while dealing with the pain of loss most often on their own.
Infant death is far less frequent these days, thankfully. Today infant death across the world is 2.9 % in the first year of life.
Diminishing infant death coupled with increasing awareness of the need for compassionate care has increased comfort available for life challenges like this.
PERSONAL AGENCY OVER SELF
Until fairly recently, the employment options available for women were mother, midwife, or prostitute. Just over 100 years ago women did not even have a right to vote. The idea of a woman’s body being controlled outside of her agency is a remnant of the reality of when women were purchased property, with rights akin to slaves. This is a part of human history.
An essential aspect of freedom is choosing what happens to your body. No exceptions. You are not free if you do not have agency over your body, the God-Given chariot for your soul. This is the sad case for all women in the United States today.
Just as Korah missed the value of deploying leaders based on individual skill, the US Supreme Court has also missed the mark. It has authoritatively diminished personal health care for women in the United States by creating a blanket rule for all women irrespective of circumstance and need. It is a demeaning and debilitating ruling. Women will die as a result. One size does not fit all.
The Torah portion in the Sefirah Cycle is Yesod of Hod.
Yesod begins the connection to the next dimension. Beyond this, S’firah which has been developing. The vital issue in Y’sod is the degree of vulnerability, intimacy, and communication with another – with personal development not being on the front burner.
In this Torah portion, the discussion was only peripherally about what the development of the people should be. The main thrust was a dispute over what should be the leadership model. Heard, situated under G’vurah, is susceptible to profuse discussion and preparation, holding back the action until the parliament has discussed each item ad nauseam. Long meetings are the results of Y’sod of Hod. Filibuster and bureaucracy emerge when too much caution and internal manipulation replace manifestation.’