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Korah: The Words Of A Demagogue – Torah And Tidbits

“Holy, Holy, Holy,” the angels chant in praise of God in the prophet Isaiah’s vision (6:3). As we echo those words in our kedushah prayer we go up on our toes signifying that God is uniquely elevated.
Korach leads a rebellion against Moses, his fellow Levite. His challenge focuses on holiness: “You have gone too far! For all the community are holy, all of them, and the Lord is in their midst. Why then do you raise yourselves about the Lord’s congregation?” (Numbers 16:3). What is wrong with Korach’s challenge?

In the previous paragraph in the Torah, we are commanded to wear tzizit, fringes, on the four corners of poncho-like garments. The purpose of the fringes is explained: “Thus you shall be reminded to observe all My commandments [mitzvoth] and you shall be holy to your God” (Numbers 15:40). Science professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University emphasized that Korach’s demagoguery was to turn an aspiration (“shall be”) into a static status.

God is holy. People are challenged to aspire to see the world through God’s eyes, to act with God-like passion for justice. Korach sought power for himself and did so under the guise of a false claim of an elevated national status. Like excellence and exceptionalism, holiness is a direction that we may touch, but never acquire. Small deeds, mitzvoth, are the stepping stones of spiritual education and service. Our tradition challenges us to persistently walk the path toward holiness. We do so with humility and empathic memory as a duty: “I the Lord am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I, the Lord your God” (Numbers 15:41).


I recently had two articles published in a new book, Modeh Ani: The Transcendent Prayer of Gratitude (click here to view as an e-book):

Modeh Ani: An Atomistic Reading
Each word of the Modeh Ani is purposeful and multifaceted.  This essay shows how these words, taken together and recited as an opening sentence upon awakening, encapsulate the goals and mindset of Jewish prayer.

A Woman’s Modeh Ani 
with a translation from Yiddish by Ana Cottle

The author considers an old Yiddish-language woman’s prayer, part of a once-thriving folk tradition of prayers composed specifically for recitation by wmoen, that frames a petition for forgiveness and length of days in the language of a familiar daily prayer, the Modeh Ani.


David Kerner reaches top of Denali! 

David, a CBI Bar Mitzvah and son of long-time congregants Joanna and Marcus, just made it to the summit of Mount Denali, an elevation of 20,310 feet!  David texted his parents from the top when he summited:  “Standing on top of North America right now.”

It normally takes 22 days to climb and descend, David and his team did it in 17 days!

To get a sense of the achievement, please read reflections of a blessed father by clicking here.