• Reckoning with Our Skeletons Beneath the Ground

    We are not bound to the worldviews and ideologies of those who came before us, but neither can we discard the ancestors with whom we disagree. How do we engage in the often difficult spiritual task of recognizing the image of God in the forebears with whom we deeply disagree, without capitulating to or validating the ideologies they espoused?

  • The Problem with Korach is the Problem with “All Lives Matter”

    Both of Korach’s challenges have the same structure. Korach rejects the notion that something small— either tzitzit or mezuzah—could be more important than something big. In opposing tzitzit to a blue tallit and mezuzah to a houseful of scrolls, the midrash picks up on Korach’s tactic of putting Moses and Aaron in opposition to “all of the community.” Korach invokes the whole, promoting the general over the specific, the greater over the lesser. He fails to recognize that in Torah, the detailed particulars make all the difference. In the realm of ritual as in the domain of justice, the demands of righteousness are precise. 

  • Argue for the Sake of Holiness

    Rabbi Sharyn Henry reflects on what it means to argue for the sake of heaven in Parshat Korach.

  • Lessons in Leadership and Conflict (Parshat Korach)

    Conflict is an element of leadership. As the ultimate example of rebellion among the Israelites the core question is this: How are we to deal with conflict when — not if — it arises?

  • The Coming Earthquake

    Have you ever been in an earthquake? April, 1979 in Jerusalem. Studying for my end of year rabbinic exams. The floor started shaking and then stopped. I relaxed for a moment. Then, it started again. This time I looked to where I might run for safety. In a flash I realize that all that beautiful Jerusalem…
  • Transforming Envy Into Energy

    A d'var Torah for Parashat Korach I often notice comparing and self-judging thoughts arise when I read about the work of activists: There they are speaking boldly at major rallies, or tweeting or blogging to many followers, or traveling to meet with Important People. What am I doing? Why aren’t I more like them? Then I…
  • Protesting Leshem Shamayim

    The old Yiddish proverb laments, “It is not easy to be a Jew.” Moshe might add, “How much the more so to be a Jewish leader.” Parashat Korach appears in what Everett Fox refers to as “the rebellion narratives” in the Book of Bamidbar. Was Moshe Rabbenu blessed with the congregation from hell? After their emancipation…
  • Paying Priests, Paying Parents

    This past weekend, many of us celebrated Father’s Day to honor the important work our dads do. A month ago, we did the same thing to honor our mothers: BBQs and brunches, phone calls and cards in the mail, “Number 1 Mom” mugs and “World’s Best Dad” baseball caps. As a congregational rabbi, I spend a…