There has been a surge of late, it seems, of people identifying themselves as Jews opposing Zionism. In this week’s parsha we encounter the original anti-Zionist Jews, Datan and Aviram, the sons of Eliav. They join forces with Korach, their neighbor in the camp of the Levi’im. Korach is happy to join forces with anybody who will help to muster popular opinion against Moshe in furtherance of Korach’s own agenda. He seeks to depose Moshe so that he can assume what he believes to be his rightful place as the leader of Israel.
Two hundred and fifty of the most accomplished and recognized leaders of Israel, those acclaimed as the most religious and the most influential, align themselves with the rebellion of Korach. Thus, the first spectacle of seemingly pious Jews, probably with long beards, insisting that real Jews are not Zionists, is described by the Torah as it occurred in the Sinai desert thousands of years ago. But of course, in the Sinai desert we had real leaders in Moshe and Aharon, so the plotters and their evil plots were overthrown.
A little later on, in the Land of Israel, the people of Israel wanted a king because they believed that they needed someone to protect them from their enemies, the Philistines. They didn’t want to take responsibility for being obedient to the will of Hashem as expressed in His Torah and they didn’t want to follow the prophet He sent – Shmuel, the descendant of Korach. In our haftara, Shmuel warns Israel to be careful what they wish for because politicians only ever serve themselves and they will take what they want from the nation, giving nothing of value in return. (We learn a similar lesson in Pirkei Avot, chapter 2, mishna 3.)
After Shmuel reprimands the people, they begin to recognize their own foolishness in choosing to have a king rule over them. Shmuel offers a very strange reassurance which at first glance doesn’t seem at all reassuring. He says, “Don’t worry, you did all of this wickedness.” (Sam. I, 12:20). The Malbim asks: Why in the world should we not worry if we have been guilty of much wickedness? He answers: Because now we will know when we are punished that we brought it upon ourselves. Hashem cares enough about us to bring the misfortune that will help us to return to the light, but He does not destroy us and He does not abandon us.
We believe in nonsense and promote ridiculous ideas that can’t be rationally defended and refute themselves as quickly as we utter them. Still there are those among us who will proudly proclaim in public forums the most risible foolishness. We will not be saved because of this; no good can come of it. But in the end we know that Hashem will save us anyway because He chose to make us His people and He has promised – to Himself – that He will always take care of us.
So don’t worry in the face of the misfortune that we bring upon ourselves, says Shmuel. Understand that as poor servants as we often are, Hashem is a great and a benevolent Master and in the end He will do for us as He has promised.