Parashat Korach is considered by many to be the most revolting Torah portion there is. (See what I did there?) It is about the rebellion of Korach, Datan and Aviram against the leadership of Moses and Aaron as the Israelites began their wanderings in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land.
At first read, the case brought by Korach and his followers seems like a legitimate challenge. They want to know who put Moses and Aaron above everyone else; after all, are not all the Israelites holy? Traditional commentaries have noted that their complaint was really a cover for a power grab. Whereas Moses felt a responsibility to God and the people, it appears that the rebels were more interested in elevating themselves. These are two very different views of leadership, and ultimately God makes it clear which one is preferable; Korach and his followers were swallowed whole into the earth.
On this post-Independence Day Shabbat, we reflect upon the history of our nation. Like at Passover, we recognize the value of the freedoms that we sometimes take for granted. We also consider those whose leadership—like Moses’—brought us through many challenging times. It has been the sacrifices of members of our Armed Forces that have helped to ensure our freedoms, but it has also been the service of duly elected officials that have labored on behalf of the people. Likewise, each of us has a responsibility to hold our officials to the standards set by our Constitution and our history; that is part of what we do to preserve this grand democratic experiment. Let us be wary, though, that we do so for the right reasons—not for a power grab, but rather to benefit all those with whom we share this great country.