Power Grab

For eight years, an insurrection in our country has brewed and sometimes boiled over. The fire came from elites in our society. Feeding off popular discontent, the wealthy and educated insurrectionists used outrage as a pretense for a power grab. It is a story as old as the Torah.

Chosen leaders of the community, who were people of repute, confound Moses’ expectations (Numbers 16:2). First, we learn about Korach, cousin to Moses and Aaron. Then came Abiram and Dathan, and their two hundred and fifty followers. All rebelled. They accused Moses and Aaron of accumulating too much power. Yet, the plotters offered no plan other than usurping power. If successful, they would secure power for themselves.

As in Sinai, so too on Capitol Hill. First came the reality show host. Then came the national leaders in support of the power grab. Judges and their wives supported the agenda. Elected officials sustained the insurrection. Conservative think tanks closed ranks around the false savior.

In the Torah, Moses challenged the insurrectionists to bring their offerings before God. With brass firepans, which were holy tools of the priesthood, the rebels brought fire and incense. God rejected their sacrifices, and the earth consumed the rebels. The biblical story ended with justice and an affirmation of God’s chosen legacy.

Our nation approaches another test. The modern Korach, a prince of privilege, is called forward by the American election ritual. His offerings are deceitful and should be rejected. Yet, this time the judge is not God but the American people. All are fallible and some are gullible. The voters are dissatisfied, and many are struggling. While the biblical outcome was a certainty, the future of our nation is in jeopardy.

The Torah has warned us about power-hungry challengers to a Divinely ordered system of governance. The opposition to God’s chosen leaders was an affront to God which God answered with holy justice. Today, God does not act to resolve such crises. We must be the crusaders for justice and democracy, rejecting the false offerings of power-hungry elites.

How may we work to save our country? Some examples. I was recently invited to a postcard-writing gathering. The group will be sending handwritten notes to voters in swing states. Others will be going door to door in swing states, hoping to turn out support for candidates who cherish democratic values. What might we do, together?

Our three-thousand-year-old tradition challenges us to avert a disaster. If not, the ground beneath our feet will open and swallow up righteousness from the earth.

Rabbi Evan J. Krame