A Holy People
At Jewish Newport
June 27, 2020
Thank you to Rabbi Marc Mandel
Edited by Rebecca Beit-Aharon
The Parsha this week is Korach. Rabbi Marc Mandel of Newport’s Touro Synagogue shared some words from aish.com:
“This week's Parsha tells the story of a man named Korach who led a mutinous rebellion against Moses and Aaron. Korach claimed that the entire Jewish people was holy, and therefore it was inappropriate for Moses and Aaron to exalt themselves over the people (Numbers 16:3). Moses responds to Korach, ‘In the morning, God will make known who is His own and who is the holy one, and He will draw him close to Him’ (Numbers 16:5).
“It seems strange that Moses would want to wait until the morning to resolve such a critical issue. Why not settle the matter immediately?
“Furthermore, Rashi (based on Midrash Tanchuma 7) teaches that Korach spent the entire night going around to each tribe and trying to gain support for his rebellion. Why does the Midrash stress that Korach went around at night?
“Korach tried to gain support for his rebellion at night because Korach lived in darkness. Although he was a Torah scholar, he didn’t really have his own light. Therefore, he tried to gain followers at night, because he shone most brightly at that time. Moses, on the other hand, knew the true source of Korach's light. This is why he waited until the morning to resolve the issue. In the daytime, it would be obvious that Korach was merely a reflection of Moses's light.” ___________________________
Korach’s idea that we are a holy people is reflected in the oft used am hodosh. And it is not unusual for Jews to say that we are holy people. I like the sound of it, yet to me it sounds arrogant.
Where does the idea that the Jewish people are a holy people, an am hodosh originate? One source is Deutoronomy 14:2 (from Sefaria.org):
כִּ֣י עַ֤ם קָדוֹשׁ֙ אַתָּ֔ה לַיהוָ֖ה אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ וּבְךָ֞ בָּחַ֣ר יְהוָ֗ה לִֽהְי֥וֹת לוֹ֙ לְעַ֣ם סְגֻלָּ֔ה מִכֹּל֙ הָֽעַמִּ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הָאֲדָמָֽה׃ (ס)
“For you are a holy people to the L-rd your G-d [by virtue of your fathers], and in you [in your own right] has the L-rd chosen to be unto Him a chosen people from all the peoples that are on the face of the earth.”
So there is an important qualification in the verse. Jews are a holy people to G-d. That sounds a little different.
Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman points out that, “The commentators explain that kadosh means separate or set aside for a specific purpose.”
What is that purpose? The Torah gives different reasons for being holy. Rabbi Dalia Marx tells us that “[Parashat] K’doshim starts with God’s call: ‘You shall be holy, for I, the Eternal your God, am holy’ (Leviticus 19:2).” Parshat K’doshim includes the commandments of how we behave towards our fellow man, who is created in the image of God. By following those commandments we are respecting the divine in each person and become holy ourselves. In other words, we may become holy because of our deeds, but it is not a given. To seal the deal it requires action.
This week I became closer to that holiness. One thing we can do is to comfort people when they are ill. A good friend of mine is very ill, and I helped comfort her this week. It is not a role I am accustomed to. I decided to be as upbeat as possible, stifling the tears with difficulty.
May your deeds and your bucket hats lead to holiness.
Shabbat Shalom from Jewish Newport!