Leadership: Seeking Power or Truth?
There has been a theme over the last few Parshiyot, the theme of power vs. influence. In the Parasha this week, Korach, Moshe and Aaron’s leadership is questioned. Korach was Moshe and Aaron’s cousin. He gathered with Datan and Abiram, and 250 others to revolt against Moshe and Aaron.
וַיִּֽקָּהֲל֞וּ עַל־מֹשֶׁ֣ה וְעַֽל־אַהֲרֹ֗ן וַיֹּאמְר֣וּ אֲלֵהֶם֮ רַב־לָכֶם֒ כִּ֤י כׇל־הָֽעֵדָה֙ כֻּלָּ֣ם קְדֹשִׁ֔ים וּבְתוֹכָ֖ם יְהֹוָ֑ה וּמַדּ֥וּעַ תִּֽתְנַשְּׂא֖וּ עַל־קְהַ֥ל יְהֹוָֽה
They combined against Moses and Aaron and said 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?” (Bamidbar 16:3). What was their intention? We know Korach truly wanted the power for himself, not for the people. The others had their own reasons for being resentful.
It is true that Hashem asked B’nai Yisrael to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. A nation in which all the citizens would be holy because we are created in the image of G-d. G-d is holy, therefore, we are also holy. Throughout history there has been a hierarchical social order. The sun ruled the heavens, the lion is king of the animal kingdom, king/queen rule the nation. That is how it was in nature. However, Judaism is different. Rabbi Sacks writes “There is still a need for leadership, because without a conductor an orchestra would lapse into discord. Without a captain a team might have brilliant players and yet not be a team. Without generals, an army would be a mob. Without government, a nation would lapse into anarchy. In a social order in which everyone has equal dignity in the eyes of Heaven, a leader does not stand above the people. They serve the people, and they serve G-d.” Moshe was a true servant leader.
According to the Rambam (Maimonides) those who have no share in the world to come are people who impose a rule of fear on the community, not for the sake of heaven. Such a person rules by force, so that the people are afraid and terrified. Yet, he does so for his own glory and personal interests.
Over the past year and a half our lives have all been completely uprooted due to Covid-19. All of us look to our “leaders” to make wise decisions and we put our trust into them. However, our “leaders” have not always made wise decisions for the sake of heaven or truth. They have made decisions that have hurt us greatly! For example, we have all looked to Dr. Anthony Fauci as the voice of reason for how we ought to live our lives during the past year and a half. Yet, he has flip-flopped his stance numerous times. There have been many inconsistencies in the information that he has shared. The latest news is that he was involved with gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Lab in China. According to the National Institutes of Health gain of function research has the potential to enhance pathogenicity or transmissibility of potential pandemic pathogens. There are inherent biosafety and biosecurity concerns, including the potential dual use risks associated with the misuse of information or products resulting from such research. (NIH) Michael Greenwood, in his article on News-Medical.net, writes “The scientific community calls for transparency and safety accreditation for any laboratories performing gain-of-function research on highly pathogenic organisms. This is particularly important with regards to public relations and opinion in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, where public mistrust of science has been thrust into the spotlight surrounding unfounded conspiracy theories concerning the origin of SARS-CoV-2.” (Article)
I have been outspoken about the way this situation has been handled. I do not believe our leaders: scientists, doctors, our government officials, pharmaceutical companies have been transparent with us. Do they truly care about our health when they are lining their pockets with millions of dollars or when proven treatments have not been used that could have saved millions of lives? How can we make informed choices about our health when any opposite information in censored? Why are we not allowed to question? Why are we constantly living in fear?
In my opinion, we need to pray and cry out to G-d first and foremost because G-d is in control! I also think that we, each individual citizen needs to take care of our own health. Obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer is rampant. We have the power to change our diets, we can exercise, reduce our stress, and fear. We can take supplements as-needed to build up our immune systems, which G-d blessed us to have. It's not easy to change our habits, by any means, but must be done.
People have said constantly "follow the science". Science is there as a tool for us to use, but it is not G-d! We are dealing with Covid-19 because G-d wants us to learn something. Instead of turning to G-d first, we are turning to science. I am grateful for the strides we have made in science, but we also have made many mistakes in science that has cost hundreds of lives, if not more. Perhaps we need to look at our actions, our behaviors and become better people, watch our words, and love and respect each other. Perhaps we need to reach out to G-d and pray that we are given the strength to become better. Pray to G-d to end this terrible virus!
Then, we need to hold our leaders accountable. We need to take a stand and demand that our leaders remember what their job is. Their job is to serve us, not to make us slaves. Rabbi Sacks wrote “We listen to views opposed to our own. We learn to defend our beliefs. Our understanding deepens, and intellectually, we grow. We learn what it means to care for truth. The pursuit of power has its place, but not where knowledge has its home.”
We can learn a lot about Korach and learn lessons from it right now. Korach did not seek truth for the sake of heaven. He was not a servant leader like Moshe and Aaron. What about our leaders today? Are they servant leaders? Do they seek the truth for the sake of heaven of for their own power?