This week’s Torah portion is Korach (Numbers 16-18). In this portion there is rebellion, greed, envy, competition, bloodshed and spectacle. Sounds like a good movie! As I understand the preceeding portions, each of the tribes of Israel was given a function or job, and they lived in formation around the Mishkan, the sanctuary and ark. This was intended not only to create a civil society with rules and roles, but to place God and the Torah at the center not just figuratively, but literally as well. Korach was the of the tribe (Kohathites?) that had the special privilege of transporting the Mishkan-the Ark. Associated with this special privilege were many very specific and sometimes difficult instructions. Those who had this job had to focus entirely inward, toward the Torah, not outward toward where they were going or what was happening with them or around them. The other special privilege was given to the Aaron – the Levites – to be the priests and lead the rituals and ceremonies to do with the Mishkan. Moses was the leader of the people themselves. Korach apparently did not perceive his job as a privilege but, rather, as a burden or at least as not important enough to satisfy him. He wished to have Aaron’s job as the high priest, the “big kehunah”. (I never knew where that phrase came from before!). So he led a revolt, incidentally manned by 250 others who thought they were best for the same job! As a result of his envy, greed, self-righteousness and discontent not only did the 250 die but thousands of others as well. It is hard, in today’s world, to find gratitude for one’s “place”. Often the place we are in is not where we wish to be. With jobs scarce and money scarcer, many are in a terrifically difficult and dissatisfied place. When we are dissatisfied, when we are envious of what others have, instead of happy for them, we are generally likely to act in destructive ways; as Korach did. When we are grateful for what we have, whatever that is, life is much easier to take and we are far less likely to behave in self-obsessed or destructive ways. When we see our lives as a privilege rather than a burden, it is so much easier to find the joy of life. I have the privilege of having a job today, much as many don’t; I have the privilege of raising my child today (as trying as that may seem occasionally); I have the privilege of a relationship with my father for all its attendant difficulties; I have the privilege of a marriage that has lasted almost twenty years through good and bad; I have a home and food to eat. These simple things are to be cherished, they are things to be grateful for. Often you hear people speak only of how these things are not enough, not as good as someone else’s, simply things to burden them. Each of us on Shabbat should take a moment to count our blessings, whatever they may be, because for all the hardship life has to offer, there are always blessings to be counted if we take the time. If only the blessing of the very breath we draw; you don’t know what you’ve got til its gone. Shabbat Shalom.
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