Thursday, June 14, 2007

Table Talk -- Korach 5767

At the Yeshiva University Yarchei Kallah I had the privilege to attend this week in Chicago, we heard from an executive coach about organizational change. She noted the two possible factors that motivate change: the carrot and the stick. At times, while we like what we have, we desire change because we see the possibility of something better. That, she said, almost never happens. On the other hand, we usually seek change because the current situation has become untenable. In other words, the most powerful motivation to seek change is pain.

While she wasn’t quoting from our parshah, she could have been. Parshas Korach relates the rebellion of a few individuals against the leadership of Moshe and Aharon. What motivates Korach’s insubordination? The Midrash tells us of Korach’s anger at being passed over for the leadership position given to his cousin Eltzafan. It’s all about his personal power.

But that begs the question: Korach lost his leadership bid long beforehand. Why does wait until now? Ramban explains that before this point, the opportunity had never presented itself. The Jewish people had enjoyed the blessings of God in the desert; life was good. They did not experience enough pain to motivate change. According to Ramban, “Had anyone rebelled against Moshe at that time, the people would have stoned him.” Yet, after the deaths over the meat and especially the terrible decree of forty years of wandering following the sin of the spies, Korach sensed his opportunity. The people were in pain. They were ready for change. He failed to realize that instead of being the solution, he was part of the problem.