Some seek power for the sake of power itself and for high status. A few seek it because they have a sense of mission and believe they can make a difference to the world. Even fewer do not seek it at all, but become leaders because of one or more of the following circumstances: they are blessed with great gifts; they are in the right place at the right time; they are chosen by God or by the people. Perish the thought that I might be talking of what is currently happening with some of our politicians at this difficult, fractious time in Britain. I am talking, of course, of Korach, who is one of the first kind and of Moses, who is one of the third. Korach and his fellow malcontents accuse Moses and Aaron of precisely what they wish to do themselves, i.e. set themselves above God’s congregation. Ironically, Moses never wanted to be a leader and he certainly never abuses his position. Rather he prays to God to take the burden away from him.
No sooner does God show whom he has chosen to lead the Israelites than the entire community complain that Moses and Aaron have “killed God’s people”. This time it is Aaron who saves the people from God’s wrath. It seems that, at this period of the journey through the desert, there is an awful lot of complaining and discontent, what with the demand for meat, the report of the spies and the brief resentment of Miriam and Aaron. Despite this, the ordering of Israelite society and the principles and ideas by which we still try to live our lives goes on. Most of the rest of Korach sets out the duties and rights governing the priests and the Levites.
At the start of Chukkat, we come to the puzzling episode of the Red Cow and the purification rites associated with its sacrifice. Much more follows. Miriam, who has been such an inspiration to the people and, who as a girl, saved Moses from death, dies. This is followed by more complaining, sadly, this time, leading to Moses and Aaron losing their tempers and incurring the punishment of never entering the promised land. Sadly, too, this is followed by Edom, the descendants of Esau, refusing safe passage to their kinsfolk. And then Aaron dies. Then confrontation with Canaan and yet more backsliding by the people, overwhelmed again by fear. Yet the parsha ends with two victories and two songs. There is hope for us yet. To share this hope, come along on Saturday at 10.30. Harvey Kurzfield will be leading the service.