For the week of June 23, 2012 / 3 Tammuz 5772
Torah: Bemidbar / Numbers 16:1 - 18:32
Haftarah: 1 Samuel 11:14 - 12:22


God-appointed Leadership

When Moses heard it, he fell on his face, and he said to Korah and all his company, "In the morning the Lord will show who is his, and who is holy, and will bring him near to him. The one whom he chooses he will bring near to him." (Bemidbar / Numbers 16:4, 5; ESV)

It was an interesting coincidence that around the same time I was looking over this week's Torah portion a friend of mine sent me an online video that was similar to this story. The video was about a pastor who was visiting a religious meeting and after the meeting's leader spoke some very positive words supposedly in the name of God to the pastor, the pastor asked if he could say a few words himself. After being handed the microphone, the pastor, after some positive comments, warned the audience about what he called false teaching in these meetings. At that point, certain members of the audience began to denounce the pastor and the meeting's leader took the microphone away from him and demanded he leave at once.

We could discuss whether or not the pastor did the right thing or if his critique was justified, but seeing this video at the same time as I was reading the story of Korah's confrontation of Moses, got me thinking: How should we handle this kind of confrontation? If I was giving a talk and someone started to question the validity of what I was saying, however they did so, how should I respond?

A Torah-based answer may be derived from Moses' example. God had appointed Moses as prime leader and Aaron as a close second as High Priest. God then set apart one tribe out of all the tribes of Israel to serve in the service of the Mishkan (English: Tabernacle) - the temple-like structure that was central in the worship life of the nation. That tribe happened to be Levi, Moses' own tribe. Aaron's descendants were designated as cohanim (English: priests), while the rest of Levi were to be their assistants in the service of the Mishkan. Was this family favoritism or nepotism as it is called? That seems to be what Korah and his followers thought.

Korah and company were actually Levites themselves, but they weren't satisfied with their role. Assisting the cohanim was not good enough for them. They wanted the priesthood itself, and thus they harshly challenged the leadership of Moses and Aaron.

As readers of the story, we can be too quick to criticize Korah's group. While not saying their actions were justified, we may have felt just like them if we were in their situation. While there are lessons to be learned from Korah's behavior, right now I am more interested in how Moses handled the situation.

Moses' initial reaction was to question Korah and his group. Moses knew that what they were doing would not go well for them, but instead of wrangling with them or defending himself, Moses entrusted the situation to God.

In order to handle the situation in the way he did, Moses had to have really trusted God. Moses was not an elected or self-appointed leader of a movement or the representative of a philosophy. God really did appear to him in the burning bush and really did direct him to lead the people of Israel. But notice that he doesn't use that to justify his position. Instead he looks to God to back him up.

Does that apply to God's leaders today? I guess it depends on if God really does exists and if he exists, does he still appoint leaders? Leaders exist all right. There are all sorts of ways people assume leadership, but what about God-appointed leadership? If there is such a thing, as I believe there is, do those who claim to possess it need to fight their way to the top and once there fight to keep their position? Let's put it this way: If you think you are a God-appointed leader, perhaps you should start acting as Moses did.

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