What a difference a single trip around the sun can make! Just last year, I wrote the following about this week’s Torah portion:
Often the message from the Torah portion has to do with issues of leadership. This is certainly true this week, which tells the story of Korach and his followers confronting Moses and Aaron and saying to them, “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 above the Lord’s congregation?” (Numbers 16:3).
It’s not that Korach was entirely wrong when he confronted Moses. It was his approach that was at fault. That is often the problem when we confront each other – rather than reach out calmly and engage in an honest discourse, we lash out. It’s entirely natural and human. We lead with our emotions.
Today when I read those words I know exactly why Korach didn’t reach out calmly and “engage in an honest discourse.” It’s the same reason that the Black community and their allies have risen up to echo Korach when we say, “You have gone too far!”
Right or wrong, Korach needed to be heard, and he spoke out without reservation. He knew that everyone in the community was holy, but not everyone was treated as such. Sound familiar? It’s a little like the “Black lives matter” slogan being answered by “all lives matter.” Of course all lives matter, but that’s not the point.
The point is that for too long – in fact, hundreds of years – Black lives haven’t mattered as much as White lives in America. The time for change is long overdue. We should not be surprised that a nearly nine-minute video of a Black man being murdered by a White police officer – someone whose job is to protect and serve, not kill – has sparked outrage.
We have lived with the politics of hate for quite some time. It has become the norm; just as we became accustomed to mass shootings in our schools and elsewhere. That has slowed but not because we have gotten better as human beings; no, it slowed because the relentless march of a world-wide pandemic sent people home.
Which makes it even more impactful that people who wanted to protest police brutality did not stay home over these past few weeks. Like Korach, they stood up and called others to join them. Many wore face coverings to protect themselves from the disease, but they ventured out regardless.
What I once saw as unnecessary bravado on Korach’s part I now see as bravery. I don’t know if his complaint was just; the Bible doesn’t tell us if he had good reason to stand up to Moses.
But I do know that our Black neighbors do have good reason to stand up, and I fully support their right to seek change. They have called us to stand with them, and I pray that we all will do so.
Image from theantimedia.org