Presidential Gladiators

Presidential Gladiators

Why would anyone want to be the President of the USA? The answer seems to be ‘because I can’ – judging by the recent Presidential debate. Can we say the same of Moses? He too had to face a ‘Presidential debate’ in front of an audience of some 3 million viewers – held live, viz. the whole population of ancient Israel were present. He and Korach faced off ‘on the desert village green’ – the stuttering Moses, a man of few words, versus the witty and sarcastic Korach. “What? (spoken with cynical incredulity) You, Moses, would require us to put up Mezuzot on our doorposts even if the house were full of holy books with the Shema already contained inside many of them? You must be kidding.” And the straight-laced, poker-faced, man of few words, Moses, answers tersely, and innocently, ’Yes’.

The difference is that in USA we have two wannabe’s, while in the desert we had one genuine leader. The ‘false prince’, Korach, had thoroughly convinced himself of his ‘righteousness’, and also cleverly appealed to the people’s emotion, citing popular democratic values: “Why should Moses exalt himself as leader over us? Aren’t we equally a union of priests (mamlechet kohanim) – every Jew being equal in the eyes of G-d?” (Seemingly realising that by making this argument he was undermining his own claim to leadership, based on ancestral rights?)

Moses doesn’t argue back. Instead, he seeks reconciliation, peace in the camp, emphasizing Korach’s dignity as a member of a priestly tribe. Was Moses also employing a clever ruse?  Or was he weak, facing powerful insubordination?  Neither. He never had any ambitions to lead. He was a reluctant leader, refusing G-d repeatedly to accept the role of leading the Jewish people from Egypt and onto the promised land. This contender projects no ego, nor suffers wounded pride. He only feels the pain of Israel’s disunity. The result: one contender, a true shepherd caring about his sheep; the other, an ambitious usurper, envious of his cousin, Moses, and betting the bank on a successful coup d’état.

Good triumphs. G-d triumphs. Israel triumphs. Korach and the opposition party are swallowed up, literally, in a sudden sink-hole.

So how shall we view our current, two, egotistic, power-hungry, self-righteous, media, warriors? My own view – we get the leaders we deserve! The true question is not who we predict will win, but to identify how each is likely to assist us to become a ‘light unto the nations’, and to help usher in a quantum change in the world heralding peace and equanimity.  Will it be the one who ‘Trump-ets’ the messianic arrival, or the one who ‘Bidens-his-time’ ensuring that he understands the wisdom of the (s)ages. 

National leadership should be a heavy burden, not a personal triumph. The same holds true for our own Eretz Yisrael.