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Difficult People

                          The Purple Sheet

          Shabbat Parshat Korach– July 8th/9th 2016 –ג תמוז תשע’ו




Difficult People


This week’s Torah portion bears the name of the man who led a rebellion against the leadership of Moses and his brother, Aaron. Korach was unhappy with the fact that he was passed over for a prominent position that he felt rightfully belonged to him. He expressed his dissatisfaction by challenging Moshe’s authority and accusing Moshe of nepotism since Moshe’s brother held the important position of High Priest. The fact of the matter is that the positions of authority distributed by Moshe were directives from God and not his own. After much argumentation and confrontation, the issue was Divinely resolved when the earth swallowed up Korach and his buddies. Ouch.

Korach was not the only one who was not thrilled with Moshe’s leadership and challenged him. Dat(h)an and Aviram (Edward G. Robinson in the 50’s movie) played a similar role at being regular thorns in Moshe’s side. Which just goes to show you that no matter how great a leader may be, he or she will always have detractors and critics. Indeed anyone in a leadership position ought to take solace in the fact that if even Moshe could not make everyone happy, then it is not so unreasonable if you cannot either and you should not be discouraged when you can’t. You are in good company.

All of us have Korach or Datan types in our lives. These are the people who seem to live for confrontation and it animates much of their personality. Every little thing seems to be an issue and reason for an altercation and they can seldom hold themselves back from making their feelings known to all around them. To make matters worse, their expressions of dismay are not always verbal but will often take the form of a sigh, a look, rolled eyes or a facial expression. And it always has the same effect and comes from the same place: They are not happy about something and it is imperative that everyone else must be made aware of their displeasure.

Folks like this are so consumed by their own self-importance that they will do anything and everything to change circumstances to fit into their world-view and barring that, let it be known that they are unhappy when all do not bend to their perspective.

A great rabbi, the Chofetz Chaim used to say, “Be careful to avoid unnecessary debates, for this can easily lead to anger” and Rabbi Pliskin, commenting on this, writes in his work, Gateway to Happiness, “Before getting into an argument, ask yourself: ‘Is it really worthwhile to argue over this matter?'”

This is the key: Is it worth the confrontation? A person has to learn to pick their battles and have the maturity and self control to just let things slide. This is why Judaism stresses that Peace trumps Truth and that we must often set aside even truth for the greater good. A person might indeed be 100% correct – but they should keep their mouth shut anyway because it is not worth the ill feelings that will result from the confrontation.

Often a person will defend their zeal by claiming that “it is the principle of the matter!” Really? The true test to this assertion is by asking, “If this issue that you are making a stink over were to happen to another, would you be as passionate about it as you are now?” If the answer is no, then it is evident that it is not “the principle of the matter” but largely ego driven.

This is not to say that one should not speak up when a meaningful injustice is being perpetrated, but for most of us in our everyday lives, conflicts seldom fall into that category and are generally a petty issue that we take personal umbrage in and are better off just ignoring.

So before going to war and entering into any quarrel, ask yourself if it is indeed worth it in the larger scheme of things. You will probably find out that most of the time it is not. And that is a good thing … for you and for everyone around you.


Life is very short and there’s no time

For fussing and fighting, my friend

-The Beatles




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