Korach, Dathan and Abiram
They are certainly not remembered for good
From the perspective of the Torah
Or from the viewpoint of the leader of the Israelites, Moses,
Or from the standpoint of most commentators.
Korach was a Levite who was dissatisfied that his family
was not eligible for the inner circle or priesthood.
Dathan and Abiram objected to Moses’ civil authority, wondering what made him so special to be their leader .
Moses responded to each challenge
With humility, but also with firmness.
There could only be one set of established priests,
and those, like Korach, who had supporting roles in the offering up of sacrifices
Were still as holy as they claimed to be.
The rebels, however, sought to be more than they were, and their motive seemed to have been to gain prestige and power.
They likely hoped to gain followers among the restless Israelites, many of whom had not stopped complaining.
Korach, Dathan and Abiram hoped to take advantage of the mounting disappointment
that the people had not yet reached their destination under Moses’ guidance.
What is clear to some of us who read this tale now is that prestige and power may seem glamorous and affirming of one’s ego if a person can win a major position of leadership.
Leadership, though, carries with it authority AND responsibility.
It is about making decisions. It is about caring for the people one leads.
It is about providing security. It is about preserving peace.
It is about committing oneself to truth and honesty
It is about engendering kindness where community members support each other from the depth of their hearts.
It is about establishing justice and fairness through thoughtful decisions of trusted magistrates
It is about offering sustenance for body, through food and shelter.
It is about presenting to the people a message of hope, even when immediate obstacles may make success seem out of reach.
It is about rejecting cruelty, hatred and vindictiveness as a basis for policies towards people of any age.
It is about seeing strangers and foreigners as allies and friends, when they show respect, seek rapprochement or sincerely ask for assistance
And it is about causing divisions among the people to melt away, allowing a shared sense of purpose and even love to result in an overflow of goodness and unity.
These are aspects of leadership that Korach, Dathan and Abiram did not take into account because they were thinking only of themselves.
So as we choose our leaders, and as we evaluate those already in positions of leadership,
May we wisely consider how we can present either support or, when warranted, strong challenges
That reflect the values that WE believe should be at the center of our lives
In our community, our nation, and our world.