Talking heads on television refer to breaking news as unprecedented. Their use of language belies history. The United States was founded in an insurrection. Both inspired and immoral revolts recurred in the years after. More uprisings will certainly follow. What is uncertain is how good people respond.
Insurrections are as old as Torah. Do you remember the revolt of Korach? After years of miracles and desert travels, Korach leads a revolt against Moses. In Parshat Pinchas, God ordered a census of the Hebrews. During the detailed count, Torah notes that the descendants of Korach did not die. Korach’s legacy is that his inheritors of rebellion will rise again.
The breaking news on cable television will report the next revolt. “History shows that both those who do not learn history and those who do learn history are doomed to repeat it,” wrote Nicholas Claremont. The question posed is how we minimize the threat of future violent, anti-democratic insurrections.
Good people forget these lessons. We share in the responsibility when we stand idly by. Recall these words written about the Shoah. “Thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but, above all, thou shalt not be a bystander,” wrote Yehuda Bauer. “For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing,” wrote Simon Wiesenthal.
The Congressional hearings on January 6, 2021, are only the beginning of the necessary process of quelling the latest insurrection. Public truth-telling is the beginning of recovering this nation’s balance. Recording testimony is a start. It must be combined with our response – at the ballot box, in the halls of government, and by teaching our children.
The descendants of Korach did not die. They will not die until good people pay greater attention. Otherwise, the history of insurgency will repeat. The need for moral outrage and the demand for justice never ends.
Rabbi Evan J. Krame