Photo Credit: Asher Schwartz

[Originally posted on Elli Fisher’s Facebook page. Reposted with permission]

This post by Uri Regev epitomizes where I part ways with him and with Hiddush on a fundamental level, despite our agreement on so many of the “ground rules” for the future of religion and state, and even though we enjoy sparring about the issues with which we disagree.

Uri Regev – June 23 at 5:01pm
Truly despicable! Rabbi Amar aspires to see all Reform Jews dead! In a Bar-Mitzvah sermon yesterday [the weekly parasha being Korah], Rabbi Amar chose to compare Reform Jews to Korah and his followers…

This is the conduct of a Rabbi!? A former Chief Rabbi of Israel and presently the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem! A real disgrace for Judaism and the State of Israel, that individuals who harbor so much hatred towards fellow Jews serve as rabbis, imposing their authority over all Jews by virtue of the powers vested in them by the State, and drawing their salary from public coffers!

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According to a report in Kikar HaShabbat, Rabbi Amar compared Reform Jews to Korah.

בדרשת בר מצווה של משפחת בן טוב, תקף בחריפות הראשל”צ ורבה של ירושלים את הרפורמים של ימינו השווה אותם לקורח ועדתו.

In the Bar-mitzvah sermon of the Ben Tov family, the Rishon LeZion and Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem [Rabbi Shlomo Amar] strongly criticized the reform Movement of today, comparing them to Korach and his followers.

This was clearly not a very nice thing to do. But Uri is not ignorant of the long history of using Korah as a screen on which to project what one thinks of various Jewish factions. In many cases, one man’s Korah is the next man’s Moshe, and vice versa.

Rav Soloveitchik, for example, said that “When people talk of a meaningful Halakhah, of unfreezing the Halakhah or of an empirical Halakhah, they are basically proposing Korah’s approach.” He was referring to people within his own Orthodox camp. Haredim identified Zionists as Korah, and vice versa.

Does this mean that they aspired to see every member of that rival group dead?

Of course not.

It is a method of identifying a rival ideology with a biblical villain. Nothing more. It is also worth noting that Korah’s punishment was meted out by God Himself. No human violence factored into the tale.

Allow me to add my own take on Korah: based on Pirkei Avot.

It seems that Korah’s cardinal sin was not the espousal of certain views, but of insincerely and cynically exploiting views that he knew would resonate popularly in order to advance his own career.

Korah was a populist using slogans like “the entire people is holy” to develop a political base.

So when Uri spins Amar’s statements to mean that the former Rishon Lezion aspires to see all Reform Jews dead, I cannot help but think that he, too, is engaging in the same sort of grandiose and cynical populism of Korah in order to galvanize a credulous and (often rightfully) angry base.

This does not mean that I aspire to see Uri dead. I do not want the ground to open beneath his feet and swallow him and his followers whole. I do not hate him. But I would like to see him acknowledge and apologize for his Korah-like exploitation of his readers’ ignorance of the Jewish homiletic tradition in order to score some cheap political points.

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