Good, Bad, and Ugly Leadership

The reading this Shabbat is from the portion of the Torah called Korach (Numbers 16:1 – 18:32) and from the Prophets the reading is from 1 Samuel 11:14 – 12:22. From the New Testament we are reading Romans 13:1-7.

The portion of Korach is a top-grade lesson for good, bad, and ugly leadership. There is a divine teaching of the Holy Spirit on how leaders ought to act in times of leadership crisis. This prayer list is getting longer and longer because of the teaching part. I realize that many people around the world like the teaching part, and I have been given a request by some of the Netivyah staff to shorten the teaching part. I have promised to try and shorten it from this week on!

The Torah portion starts with these words:

“Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men; and they rose up before Moses with some of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, representatives of the congregation, men of renown.” – Numbers 16:1,2 [NKJV]

What do we learn from this opening that appears right out of the blue with this gathering? The first thing that we learn is that this is not a spontaneous affair of complaining about the old guard of the leadership.

  1. Korach the son of Kohath is a Levite from a family of Levites, just like Moses and Aaron, who are from the same tribe.
  2. Korach had to work hard to gather all the disgruntled Levites who had unfulfilled leadership aspirations, including Dathan and Abiram and the sons of Reuben. It takes organization and talking and gossiping against the established God-given leadership that had been serving the people for many years.
  3. Korach and his gang didn’t come with peaceful intentions but with rebellion in their hearts. We see this from the words, “they rose up before Moses.” In other words this was not a legitimate request for jobs, or attention, or better conditions. It was an uprising, a rebellion, a challenge for deposing Moses and Aaron, it was an attempt to take over to overcome Moses and Aaron.
  4. To get 250 leaders of the nation of Israel to come with them to challenge the leadership one would have to work mighty hard to get 250 Israelite leaders to agree on anything. This would be especially true when we are talking politics. In the last 12 months we have had three national elections and even this present supposed “unity government” that was formed by Benjamin Netanyahu and Benjamin Gantz is standing on shaky ground. So, you can imagine that Mr. Korach was working very hard for a long time to gather 250 Israeli leaders to convince them that they are going to be able to overthrow Moses. I imagine Korach had already promised positions and jobs to several of the other leaders.

Now this is how the story continues:

“They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, ‘You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?’” – Numbers 16:3 [NKJV]

Notice the claim of the Korachite gang:

  1. Moses and Aaron you are taking too much upon yourself.
    • This could sound like they are concerned for Moses and his heavy schedule and work and they want to share the burden of Moses as leader. But, this is not the case here. They are actually saying: “Moses you are not a monopoly here. We are here and we want a part of the leadership. We want democracy and equality in the leadership. You can’t do it alone!”
  2. We are all qualified and holy no less than you and your brother Aaron.
    • We are as qualified as you and Aaron! You must share the leadership with us because we are as good as you are.
    • Of course they are not taking into account that Moses didn’t want this task of taking the children of Israel out of Egypt. He didn’t chase after the job, and it was imposed upon Moses by the almighty God.
    • It was also Moses that did all the work directed by God before Egypt and Pharaoh
      and all of Egypt.
  3. There should be equality between us, and leadership ought to be shared and not
    kept for so long in the same family.

    • This argument of Korach and his gang sounds very modern. Equality, fraternity, and freedom for us to do what we want to do. This argument is very modern and the claim of equality without effort, and fraternity without debt and reciprocity and freedom without limitations is a formula for anarchy and in the end dictatorship.
  4. Moses brings a very important argument in this case, an argument that very few politicians if any can bring today. Let the Lord be the judge between me and Korach and his people. This is one of the most important lessons for leaders who are challenged and attacked by other leaders and people who claim to be sent by God or by the desire to compete with the present leadership. What develops in most cases is a competition, intrigues, false accusations, dirty war, and defamation.
    • Moses does not stoop to the level of his opposition. He does not take the low road to attack and defame Korach and the 250 men that stand with Korach. He calls upon the Lord to be the judge and his own vindication. The Lord does a good job of cleaning up the camp of the rebellious bunch.
  5. The children of Israel saw how God dealt with Nadab and Abihu the sons of Aaron and they ought to have understood and repented of their sinful behavior and of their challenging the appointment of God, Moses and Aaron. Korach and his gang of 250 men didn’t expect the divine intervention of the earth to open and swallow them all alive into the pits of Hell.
  6. As leaders and disciples of Yeshua the messiah we must not only believe in Yeshua, but also believe what He, our lord and king, instructed us to do. He instructed us to turn our cheek to our oppressors and become fishers of men. He instructed us not to return evil for evil, but to do good. Moses allowed the Lord to be the judge and the Lord is the judge not only on the judgement day of all flesh, but also now here on Earth. The Lord is the same God that we read about in the Bible. He has the same wisdom and judges the evil men as well as the righteous. He is the same God who asked Abraham to leave his father’s house, his country, his nation, and go to a place that is controversial, the land of Canaan.

I am as challenged by the leadership of Moses as I am challenged by the teaching of Yeshua our Messiah and King. My challenge is to be able to allow the Lord of all, to be not only my Savior and Atonement, but also my Rabbi / Teacher and Instructor for my daily living and preparation for eternity. I hope that you read the story of Korach and concentrate on what you can learn from Moses, the positive, the patient, the allowing your vindication to come from God and not from your own hands.

This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.