Korach's Call For Sameness Diminishes The Equality Of Difference
06/07/2013 - 13:43
Rabbi Daniel Grossman
Rabbi Daniel Grossman
Rabbi Daniel Grossman

This week’s parasha focuses on the rebellion of Korach. Korach’s attempt to take power from Moses rests on what at first appears to be an appeal to equality and democracy. “All the community is holy, all of them, and the Lord is in their midst.  Why then do you raise yourself above the Lord’s congregation?”

If all of Israel is equal, why should Moses have more authority than others? The problem with Korach’s argument is that to say all are equal in the eyes of G-d, is not to say we are all the same in our abilities before G-d.

Judaism encourages us to acknowledge diversity in ability and skills at the same time we celebrate our equality before the Lord. In working with unique individuals for more than thirty years, I have been blessed to experience the diversity of equality before G-d and to acknowledge the unique abilities of many people.

Praying in sign language, dealing with physical, intellectual and emotional challenges does not ignore uniqueness for the false value of sameness. We are not the same, but, we are equal. Honesty allows each person to forge their own path toward equality of experience without pretending that to be equal is to be the same. Moses possessed skills suited for leadership. Betzalel was better suited as an artist and craftsman. Miriam’s empathy to the needs of the people allowed her to know when to lead them in song and where to lead them to life giving waters.

Korach’s words sound empowering, but in fact, by denying unique differences, his words are in fact, much more limiting.  If changes in modes of participation are ignored for the sake of “sameness,” we as a community deny individuals the right to experience equality in many different ways. 

The point of my position is that for us all to pray, do mitzvoth, and to live as a Jew, we must allow for varying modalities to achieve equality, without requiring sameness for all Jews. We each approach Judaism in ways suited to our abilities, skills and physical realities. Korach’s hidden call, for, sameness, in fact diminishes the equality of difference. Let us pray that we always acknowledge the wonder of uniqueness and that we are not fooled into the trap of sameness.  

I want to give thanks and credit to Rabbi Bradlley Shavit Artson for introducing me to the difference between equality and sameness.

Rabbi Daniel T. Grossman has led Adath Israel Congregation in Lawrenceville, New Jersey for 25 years. He is a graduate of Temple University, Hebrew University, Mirkaz HaRav Kook in Jerusalem and the Reconstructionist Rabbincal College. Rabbi Grossman also works in the field of Jewish Special Education and co-wrote and participated in the video “Someone is Listening,” the story of a young deaf Jew and his search for fulfillment as a Jewish adult. Rabbi Grossman is also fluent in several sign languages.

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My reacher used to say intellectual and emotional challenges does not ignore uniqueness for the false value of sameness. Very good presentation man, liked it so much

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Every one is different at birth -even "identical twins".
But you are missing the point. Please use your intellect to see that the article is trying to use a Torah incident and a great lesson in the respect of Torah -true teachers to disparage the True teachers of Torah! What a cheek (chutzpah - another word that comes to mind)!
Please see the previous comment and please read it carefully.

Korach was calling for Hashem's law to be changed to accommodate him (Korach and his like-minded "friend's"). If a person cannot speak or is unable to speak because of any disability then Hashem knows their thoughts-they do no miss out because of their disability even if they cannot "sign".

If a person who can speak, speaks contrary to Torah then of course, Hashem is totally aware of that too and of their motivation because He cannot be fooled.

Korach was for "difference" i.e. divergence FROM Hashem's Law. That was and is a very negative thing to do.
Those who are Inadvisedly espousing a "different" way to do things within Judaism are the same as the instigator Korach, who went into the ground with his whole family.

Wake up "instigators" before it is too late.
Don't be fooled into the trap of divergence from the Torah.

The use of Korah to promote instead of to decry the reform/conservative/reconstructionist/progressive "sects" is exactly the type of twisted thinking that Korach used. These "sects" are precisely the ones and the same of which Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi Hertzog of blessed memory said that they are NOT Judaism.
It is also unfair to “use” disabled people to try to prop up counter Torah philosophies.