Parshas Korach
Numbers 16:1 - 18:32

Show Time Leadership ©
By Dr. Akiva G. Belk

This study of the weekly parsha is dedicated in the loving memory of Mr. Paul Sakash, may he rest in peace.

Throughout the Torah we enter periods of leadership antagonism, disharmony, friction, warfare and jealousy. Parshas Shelach and Parshas Korach are two of these times. In Shelach we have twelve spies chosen by Moshe. The Torah lists the central requirement for their selection as: " man each for his father's tribe you shall send them, each a leader among them." " Then in Korach we see Korach a Levi, Dathan and Abiram stirring it up against Moshe and Aaron. The Torah states: "they stood before Moshe with two hundred and fifty men from among the Children of Yisroel, leaders of the assembly, those summoned for meeting, men of renown." The failure of leadership is one of the problems over the past few weeks. The Shabbos before last, in Parshas Beha'aloscha, the princes from each tribe were required to surrender their priesthood to the Kohanim because of their failure in the incident with the golden calf. In two weeks we will face a leadership problem with the deliberate, defiant, premeditated, high handed sin by Zimri, a prince of Yisroel. Leadership problems are not uncommon. They surface from time to time.

Now, many generations removed from Har Sinai, we continue to have leadership failures. That is not a surprise. However, how we neglect dealing with them is.... I would like to cite one example of an administrative officer who once was employed by a religious organization. He worked directly for the head of the institution for many years. During those years he observed serious medos problems. The administrative officer found it difficult to believe he was the only one who observed these problems so he began to inquire among his superiors, the administrative staff, the faculty, the maintenance people and parents of former students. Each one confirmed at least a degree of knowledge regarding these medos failings. Essentially everyone knew! So if everyone knew about these incidents why didn't they do something? This was a private religious school that taught Torah. Yet no one seemed inclined to do anything. The administrative officer then began investigating Board members. Some of them were involved in what he considered questionable business practices. Others owned or financed immoral businesses. To say the least, the story went on and on... Eventually the administrative officer approached a senior staff member about the behavioral problems of the institutional head. The senior staff member stated, "I don't want to get involved." The administrative officer also approached the Dean of Religious Studies who also said, " I don't want to get involved." And the story goes on and on. The administrative officer spoke with leaders outside of that community. They acknowledged their awareness and concern but they also preferred not to get involved.

The administrative officer also indicated that there were many times that he had experienced much kindness from the parties involved. My response was while kindness is nice and an important part of being Jewish, it is not a permit to lower one's responsibility to be Torah observant even on the difficult days.

As we know, a few rotten apples can ruin an entire barrel. In the same way, religious leaders who fail cast a very grim light on the tireless efforts and heavy burdens of those that are dearly faithful. So, keeping that in mind, I make the following comment to those who have failed: Take off your masks and clean up your act!!! If you call yourself a rabbi, a rav, a rosh hayeshiva, a rosh hakollel or whatever you call yourself, live up to the high calling of your office.

Yiddishkeit is growing very weary of rabbium who find it convenient to not hold their constituents accountable because of financial considerations, because of job security, because of intimidation and other reasons. Rabbium must collectively hold themselves accountable. And the local communities must cry out when this doesn't happen. Looking the other way when you know a medos problem exists is participating in the avarah. We learn this from the police investigation of the horrible shootings in Littleton. It is obvious if someone knew what was going to happen and did nothing to stop it, they participated in the crime. You think I'm presumptuous? What does Leviticus 4:22 say?

"When a Nawse {leader} sins, who transgresses one of the commandments of Hashem his G-d, that should not be committed, unintentionally, he is guilty."

I divert to address nawse:
The Stone Chumash suggests this refers to powerful and wealthy people...
Sforno suggests it refers to the king...
The Talmud says this refers to the king

Yet the literal interpretation of Torah and Tenach simply do not agree with this view. The rules of hermeneutics do not agree with this view either. The first mention of nawse is in reference to Avraham Avinu in Genesis 23:6. Numbers 2:3 -29 uses nawse in reference to each tribal head as does Numbers 7:11 - 7: 79. In Numbers 3:32 nawse is used for Elazar son of Aaron the Kohen. In Parshas Shelach, nawse was used for, as the Stone Chumash puts it, "highly respected leaders." Not a King, not princes, not a kohen and not a levi; just highly respected leaders. Joshua was one of the nawsium selected by Moshe. In Pirkei Avos Joshua, a nawse, is listed as one of the channels by which Torah interpretation flowed to the elders... So we observe that the Torah usage is much broader than the suggested intent. The fact is nawse means leadership.

I return.
Shabbos after Shabbos we hear and learn how we the congregation must work on our medos. We accept the instruction and the challenge. Yet the congregation is not the only group who MUST work on their medos! THE LEADERSHIP MUST WORK ON THEIR MEDOS!

Unfortunately, this is one of the abhorrent difficulties with Rabbinic law, it is at the rabbi's discretion...OR IS IT? In other words he can grant himself leniency as necessary...AND DOES! However rabbinic law is not just for the benefit of the congregants.

A Yid, while shopping in a local super market not employing the services of a misgieach, observes a non Jew who is employed by a strict religious school. The non Jew is observed making a large purchase of kosher hot dogs. The Yid asks, "Are you purchasing the hot dogs for the school?"

The employee responds, "Yes! Rabbi So and So told me to come to this supermarket and purchase them."

These are two leniencies in action. If one of the students from that school were observed doing the same thing, the rabbium would not be so lenient. If that is the situation, then set the proper example for everyone.

After Shabbos begins, it's dark outside. A rabbinic leader who acts shomar shabbos makes a phone call which is recorded on the caller I.D. He leaves a message which records the date and time....

A rabbi who claims to be Torah observant and is thought to be Torah observant is seen by a non Jew (who was studying conversion prior to this incident) in a Las Vegas casino during the daytime on Shabbos playing the slots ....

Rabbium who have hammered home the idea of living sniess to their talmidim and congregants, have for years vacationed in a small Rocky Mountain town enjoying the hot pools in mixed company...

In last week's parasha, when discussing intentional sin in Numbers 15:30, Ramban commented, "For anyone to claim that a particular commandment does not apply to him or that he has the right to pick and choose among the commandments is blasphemous and worthy of the condemnation stated in this passage."

This may sound like a slam on religious leaders. IT IS NOT! However it is a slam on 'SHOW TIME LEADERSHIP' especially those who call themselves rabbi AND live far below the Torah standards they expect other Jews to follow. Moshe Rabbinu sinned only one time in forty years. And how difficult was it for Kal Yisrael to follow him?

A Story of Shuvah
In conclusion to this parasha, a staff officer recommended sharing the following story with you. I used to rent a lower level apartment owned by Satmar Chassidim. My responsibility was to watch after their home while they were away. In consideration for being a shomer, they provided low rent. For nine weeks each summer they would come to Denver for vacation. I looked forward to those times. We would enjoy each other's company around the Shabbos table for hours. They were very kind, gentle, sweet people. One summer without notice, a small dispute arose over air conditioning expenses. We had a few words. No hollering, screaming, naming calling or anything like that. Just a small dispute. After several months they eventually understood the public service charges and dropped the matter. That was the end of it until a few weeks before Yom Kippur when I received a phone call. The older man was on the other end and he was crying, remorsefully saying in his broken accent, "Akiva, please forgive me!"

I questioned, "Tzadee, for what?" even though he wasn't my grandfather.

He said, "For this past summer when I accused you of making the air conditioning bill high."

I said, "I forgive you but you didn't understand."

He said, "In a few weeks I will stand before the Rebono Shel Olom. I want my slate to be clean." Then his wife got on the phone. She was also crying. She apologized. Then his daughter also.

After this was over I thought, Wow! What a lesson in shuvah! The lesson was simple but profound. Nothing must get in the way of Shuvah! Not religious position! Not age! Not wealth! Not status! Not distance! Nothing must get in the way of shuvah!

Wishing you the best,

Dr. Akiva G. Belk

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