This week we study Parashat Korach (Numbers 16:1-18:32).
* This is the flip side of Jews wearing tzitzit with royal blue. All Jews think of themselves as royalty. This is a law. All Jews are royalty.
* For the first time, some of the people arise against Moses. Korach’s crowd rebels against authority. Authority means people telling you what to do.
* Korach’s complaint against Moshe – why do you exult yourself? This resentment of great people is common. It is the dark side of democracy. It comes out in the politics of resentment against the rich. Why do you have so much money? It’s the sort of nonsense that Ayn Rand wrote against. It is the resentment of the petty against the great.
* When you meet people better than you, do you resent them or do you admire them?
* The bad hate the good. It’s a rule in life.
* Most revolutions are bad news. They make things worse. The American revolution is the big exception.
* I don’t trust those like Korach who pose as a man of the people a la Bill Clinton. I prefer those who stand for something more than personal popularity.
* Much of the trouble I’ve gotten into in my life came from when I was feeling ignored. Intellectuals want power. They want to be treated with respect. When I feel like I am not getting sufficient honor, I tend to act out and thrust for power and attention. I’ve often acted like Korach. I remember asking many obnoxious questions in a Political Science class in college and eventually the professor got ticked at me and dressed me down in front of the class. Nothing this severe had happened to me in a classroom. When it came time for exams, he gave my A paper a B grade and therefore a B for the course. I loved the professor and took many more classes from him, getting all As. When I wrote to him a couple of years later, he wrote back, “Be careful how you speak to people or they will hurt you.” I just woke up this Sunday morning and realized he gave me a B grade as punishment. It wasn’t that I misunderstood the assignment.
* I remember becoming friends with a rabbi I’d written many damaging things about. He said to me, “I get the feeling that somebody abused their religious authority with you early in your life and you just have a burning passion against such people.”
* Popularity is a form of power. We can do what we do because we have the support of many people. If everybody hated us for what we were doing, we would find it much harder. Moshe at this time in the Torah has little popularity. This emboldens Korach.
* People often think I don’t care about the opinions of others, but much of what I do is enabled by the popularity and influence of my blog. When it waxes high, I tend to wax high too. When it ebbs low, I tend to retreat.
* Once Korach challenged Moshe’s leadership, it was a short step to challenging the divine origin of the commandments. Once people challenge the leadership of the great rabbis, it is a short step to denying the divine origin of the commandments.
* Korach’s crowd knew that they were going to die in the desert anyway (because of the sin of the spies), so they might as well try to overthrow the leadership.
* Moshe invokes God with the incense pan test without consulting God. I’ve found that it is a risky strategy to invoke people’s power without consulting with them first. Num. 16:28 Moshe — without consulting with God — predicts a spectacular death for Korach and co, the ground opening up.
* The idea that some people are holier than others is an illiberal idea. Korach’s crowd are liberals and radically egalitarian.
* Did Moshe change God’s mind about wiping out the Israelites? Does God answer some prayers? He apparently listens to some people sometimes.
* Collective punishment seems unAmerican. If only wrongdoers got punished, what would motivate the non-evil doers in a community to shut down the wrongdoers? Why are we not more active in stopping crime? Because the odds of us getting killed are small.
* I have an attractive female friend who can only get aroused by inappropriate relationships. She needs romantic attention from multiple men, and gets off on romantic intrigue. What would the Torah say about such a woman?
* Generally speaking, those who lust for power do horrible things with it. Their lust comes from their personal shortcomings. It is a way to mask their feeling of inadequacy. Al Gore purportedly said during the 2000 campaign that George Bush would be ok if he lost, while he, Al, would be destroyed. The most noble leaders tend to be people like Moshe who do not want power. I’ve spent much of my therapy talking about lust for glory.
* If the Torah was written by Moshe without God’s guidance, then who is Moshe that we should obey him?
* Who’s your favorite tortured gay poet? Can a poet ever get too gay or too tortured for your tastes? Does tortured and gay go together like ham and eggs? Ever journey to Brokeback Mountain? Play stem the rose?
* I’ve figured out why I’m so attracted to shiksas. Because I can’t marry them, they’re not as frightening as an Orthodox women. Same with non-Orthodox women. Not as scary. Intimacy with them does not have to mean anything. We probably don’t have as many people in common. Their rejection does not hurt as much because they are outside of the core of my life. I find it much easier to be intimate with people I can discard.