Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Korach - What We Learn About Respect

Korah (Numbers 16:1- 18:32) קרח
What Korah’s company teaches about respect.
By Rabbi Judy Weiss

Korah complained against Aaron. Meanwhile Korah’s associates, Dathan and Abiram, raised a parallel complaint against Moses. Both complaints involved complainers asserting their rights to be priests or leaders alongside Aaron and Moses. Moses set a simple test for God to demonstrate if Korah should be priest. But regarding Dathan and Abiram, Moses requested they meet with him. They refused, disrespectfully accusing Moses of hoodwinking the Israelites into accepting his leadership. Their refusal to meet upset Moses greatly (Numbers 16:15).  Rabbinic midrash (Tanhuma) explains what made Moses so upset:

He was like a person “who debates and argues with his colleague. If his colleague replies to him —he is pleased, if he does not reply, he is deeply annoyed.”

In family or communal life, there will always be differing viewpoints   involving religion, societal administration, or values. There’s nothing wrong with contrasting outlooks, but it’s disrespectful to stonewall a discussion. 

Here’s an environmental parallel. In March, Senate Democrats invited Senate Republicans to participate in climate discussions (no legislation, just talk). Republican Senator McConnell responded: “Even if you conceded the point {global warming is true}, which I don’t  … it isn’t going to be addressed by one country.” McConnell refused to meet and add his important concern about international cooperation to the discussion. Of 45 Senate Republicans, only Senator Inhofe went.

When Inhofe took the floor, he called global warming a hoax. This was equivalent to refusing to discuss it. Indeed, Inhofe acknowledged he once thought global warming might be true, but decided it’s a hoax when he learned the cost of mitigation. To most people, calling global warming a hoax may seem like offering an opinion. However, it really disrespects thousands of climate scientists and indirectly disses millions of other scientists.

A Wall Street Journal blog noted some politicians oppose action because it will cost businesses and consumers.  However, Ceres organized 700 major corporations to sign a declaration calling for national efforts to slow climate change because it’s good for the economy and jobs, and is morally right. Businesses want Congress to confer seriously and respectfully on climate.

In fact, the right policy can improve the economy. A June 2014 study by REMI (Regional Economic Model, Inc) analyzes a gradually increasing carbon tax rebated 100% to the public. Although some politicians claim carbon taxes will “kill jobs,” REMI’s study indicates carbon taxes could create 2.1 million jobs within ten years. That’s serious growth deserving earnest attention!

Recently, some politicians responded to questions about global warming saying: I’m not a scientist, so I can’t debate global warming. Reagan wasn’t a scientist, but supported ozone legislation to cut CFCs, preventing skin cancers. Saying “I’m not a scientist” is just recusing oneself from the climate dialogue. It is disrespectful towards Americans: it assumes we can be dismissed with feeble answers.

Moses became very upset with Dathan and Abiram for not appearing. Does President Obama get upset with Republicans avoiding climate deliberations? Obama told Thomas Friedman:

“Yeah, absolutely … The baseline fact of climate change is not something we can afford to deny. And if you profess leadership in this country at this moment in our history, then you’ve got to recognize this is going to be one of the most significant long-term challenges, if not the most significant long-term challenge, that this country faces and that the planet faces.”

Congress must come to this challenge and lead.

According to Rashi when Moses sent for Dathan and Abiram, Moses was demonstrating that one should persistently work to resolve disputes and make peace. On June 9th, one week after the EPA released proposed regulations, Senate Democrats again invited Republicans to meet to discuss climate change.  Again only Sen. Inhofe came, and again he denied global warming. 

Perhaps if Dathan and Abiram had shown up and talked over their differences with Moses, they would not have died.  For us to have climate action we need the GOP to act as a respectable political force. We need them to come to Congressional meetings with their self-respect intact and with proper respect for Democrats, scientists and Americans.

How will that happen? I don’t know. But I do know that 6000 volunteers working with Citizens’ Climate Lobby are pursuing every opportunity to resolve disputes about global warming and climate policies. Approximately 15 Bay Staters, members of CCL chapters in Boston, MetroWest, North Shore and South Shore, will go to Washington on June 22 to attend CCL’s annual conference. We will meet with every Member of the House and Senate, and will dialogue about legislative options honestly, seriously and with respect.

No comments:

Post a Comment