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Risks & Rules -- Chronicle Online/The WORD 06/22/23

Weekly On-line Rabbi's D'var-Torah

June 22, 2023 3 Tammuz 5783 KorachKorach—the guy for whom our weekly Torah portion is named—went on a mission that was doomed to fail. He thought that he could replace his cousin Moses as the leader of the Israelite people. He thought that since he was from the right tribe, the rules didn’t apply to him. So, he could challenge Moses, and God would pick him—Korach—over Moses. Needless to say, he misjudged his position, and it did not end well for him. Korach would not be the last person to overestimate his capabilities and his place in the world. Many of us have been carefully following the story of the submersible that sought to take five people over two miles below the surface of the water in order to view the wreckage of the Titanic on the ocean’s floor. While I understand the desire to see the Titanic—I’m as fascinated by history as anyone—I don’t understand what allows a person to think that the rules of nature and physics don’t apply to them. The temperature and the pressure at the depth of the Titanic are not suitable for human life. I believe it is technologically possible to build a craft that could take people safely down there, but clearly Stockton Rush working on his own is not the person to do it. In talking about the safety of his submersibles, he said the following: “You know, at some point, safety just is a pure waste. I mean, if you just want to be safe, don’t get out of bed.... At some point, you’re going to take some risk, and it really is a risk/reward question. I think I can do this just as safely by breaking the rules.” This is the exact opposite of the Jewish approach. We believe in taking risks. After all, following Moses across the Red Sea and into the desert was clearly a risk. However, we also believe in following the rules. Upon reaching the desert, God gave Moses and the Israelites the Torah on Mt. Sinai. This balance between risk-taking and rule-following is what allowed the Israelites to survive 40 years in the wilderness and then conquer the Land of Canaan. Korach wanted the glory that comes with taking great risks, but did not want to follow the rules. He and his followers were lost into an abyss. Unfortunately, just like Korach, Stockton Rush has followers. They have followed him down to the bottom of the ocean and, it appears, they will not be returning. I pray that the passengers of the Titan will still be found alive. However, regardless of how this situation plays out, I hope we all remember that even when we want to take risks, there are rules. Shalom, RAF.

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