In this week’s Torah portion, we speak of the story of Korach; Korach was a man who was truly great in many ways, but he was a man who lost his way when he decided to act against Moses. 

I once heard a story from a famous Rabbi, who told me that his former reincarnation was actually present for the argument between Korach and Moses. The argument had been very close, and Korach had been so convincing, that the Rabbi had almost taken Korach’s side. 

The message that I took from this, is that it is truly only upon retrospection that we often are able to determine right from wrong. 

We are presently living in a world where people choose to take absolute sides, yet remain unwilling to hear or listen to the perspectives of others, especially when those perspectives directly challenge their own. Personally, I find that when I hold a certain belief, I will often stand behind it to my detriment. It can be so difficult for me to see another side to something– it is almost like if I am forced to change my mind, along with my perspective, I will cease to exist.  

The questions I have been asking myself are: How do I know when I am standing up for what is right? Further, how do I identify when I am arguing for the sake of righteousness, or when I am arguing in order to protect a belief that no longer serves me? And finally, how do I know when I am arguing just to hurt someone else?

Rabbi Jonathan Sachs has provided an explanation to these questions for me, and it has really helped to open my eyes. The entire interpretation of the Jewish religion is based upon rabbinical arguments, and he therefore questioned what was so wrong about Korach; his answer is huge, and it helped to show me a wonderful, valuable point-of-view. Rabbi Sachs explained that while it is okay for me to argue or challenge a concept or a belief, it is when an argument leads to me challenging the integrity of others– to attack their character, color, religion, persuasion, or identity– that my argument then becomes selfish, unproductive, and in the end, hugely destructive. 

When Korach chose to attack Aaron and Moses, he did not do so in order to prove a point. Korach had no intention of helping others see a new point-of-view or perspective– what Korach truly wanted was power, and the destruction of another person. 

How do you know when you are arguing for the correct reasons– and for that matter, how do you determine what is ‘correct’? How do you know when you are arguing to protect a negative belief, or to maintain or seek power? And finally, how do you hold yourself accountable when it comes to your values and beliefs?

This week, I am committing to seeking out the ideas of others. I am committing to not attacking any individuals regarding their character, color, religion, persuasion, or identity– instead I will choose to challenge their perspectives and beliefs, and I will look at my motivations in doing so. If I find a person’s actions unfavorable in certain instances, it does not necessarily mean I cannot like them as people, as they still have value and should be viewed and treated in kind. 

Accountability, Community, Unconditional Love