When Korach Tried to Defund the Police

As a kid, I remember secretly identifying with Korach’s thinking.

Didn’t he just want equality? A place at the table? Was that so bad?

Who decides who gets to be in charge? Why can’t there be committees and dialogue about roles?

Even to this day, there is a part of me that bucks against authority, rules, and structured hierarchy.

In middle school, we once had one of those situations where a teacher threatened punishment for the whole class “unless the guilty party came forward” and when she left the room, I scribbled on the board (in the original Hebrew): “Will one man sin and your wrath will be on the entire congregation?” (Teachers did not generally love me.)

In the beloved (but a little disturbing) musical, School of Rock, they sing a song called: Stick it to the Man- glorifying the value of rebelling against any authority: parents, teachers, schools, or rules. This justifies the protagonist’s lying, cheating, and stealing, because he’s funny, musical, and liked by kids.

The thing about Korach is that he may have started from a good place. Or maybe not. Maybe it was a penchant for the people, or maybe it was his own ego. So often the noble creed of “why can’t everyone” is easily confused with “why can’t it be me?”

He was an educated and charismatic person and lobbied to each group according to its agenda:

“You should have been the priests!”

“You should be a leader in your own right!”

“Who needs leaders? We are all holy and have a right to relate directly to G-d!”

Tell the people what they want to hear; anything to overthrow the establishment.

When someone isn’t happy with the status quo, the logic is to advocate for change.

When someone’s ego is outraged and offended, the temptation is for mutiny.

In our times, large segments of the population are dissatisfied with the status quo. Every honest and growing person should support the idea of improvement- whether individual, societal, or political.

When Jethro, as a newcomer, saw problems in the judicial system, he boldly approached the man in charge and said: “Your structure isn’t working well. I have a better idea for you.” His advice was heeded and credited.

When Korach felt marginalized and perceived what he believed to be corruption and nepotism, he launched a full on rebellion, including smear campaigns and segmented pandering.

Moshe said: I never usurped power unilaterally; I serve the people, but let’s let G-d make the call.

The rebels literally ran themselves into the ground.

Today, many people have traded in advocacy for anarchy, and abandoned vital dialogue in favor of violent destruction.

Instead of working to improve the world we have, building on the progress that has already been made, a war has been declared. They’ve instigated a deliberate demolition of civilized life as we know it, mistakenly believing that home improvements always need to begin with bulldozers.

Korach wanted to oust the leadership: not replace it, not collaborate with it, but destroy it. He preached equality but ultimately craved his own dominion. Ego and power-hungry rage are rarely the ingredients for building a better world.

Proponents of chaos and mayhem would prefer lawlessness over imperfect and evolving freedom.

The message of Korach and his followers is that progress doesn’t come from defunding the police and sabotaging everyone’s safety. Setting the world on fire doesn't solve problems- it burns people.

The Jews in the desert and those of us fortunate enough to live in Western society are the beneficiaries of benevolent leadership. Every decade brings more enlightenment and understanding about how to better the world for more of us. Yes, minority groups still need more- and that has been steadily improving in leaps and bounds over the past century.

An imperfect society doesn’t need to be razed in order to be raised.

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Elisheva Liss, LMFT is a psychotherapist in private practice. Her book, Find Your Horizon of Healthy Thinking, is available on Amazon.com. She can be reached for sessions or speaking engagements at speaktosomeone@gmail.com More of her content can be found at ElishevaLiss.com