D’var Torah: Parshat Korach – Running Into The Fire
Why do some people run into the fire to save people and some people run away? I don’t fault those who run away. I am just in awe of those who run towards it to help. Perhaps Bruce Springsteen is right when he writes, “I need you near, but love and duty called you someplace higher. Somewhere up the stairs, into the fire.”
The very day after Korach’s rebellion was squashed by God, the people once again took up their rebellion to blame Moshe and Aaron for what happened. At that moment, God’s presence appeared in the Tent of Meeting and Moshe and Aaron rushed towards God. We now expect the usual conversation to ensue in which God reveals the intention to wipe out the Israelites and Moshe and Aaron talk God out of it. This time, when Moshe and Aaron prostrate themselves before God, God does not answer. When something departs from the norm in the Torah, it is good to take notice. This moment when Moshe and Aaron’s pleadings are ignored by God may very well be the most perilous in Israelite history.
A plague breaks out among the Israelites so Aaron grabs his fire pan and runs to the people to save them with the incense from the expiation ritual. When Aaron “runs into the fire,” he is running between “death” in the form of the plague and the people. It is a grim scene with thousands dying before Aaron can even get there.
How I love Aaron. The loyal brother always playing second fiddle quietly does whatever he can to serve the people. He literally “stood between the dead and the living until the plague was checked.” The Israelites had complained and even tried to overthrow Aaron and Moshe because they claimed that they were in it only for themselves. Instead of getting angry, Aaron risks everything to save them. I think it was Aaron’s love and dedication that turned away God’s wrath.
My theology does not believe that God has brought COVID-19 to punish humanity. Yet Aaron’s response to pandemic is to let his love for the people drive his actions. In times like these, when I am most down, I do turn to Mr. Rogers’ advice, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
What are the characteristics of someone who runs into the fire? According to Bruce, they have strength, faith, hope and love. These individuals not only save others but they are role models that encourage others to do the same.
Thank you to the helpers who have been tirelessly and endlessly giving of themselves and may they inspire us to do our part to help in any way we can. Shabbat Shalom.