Friday, June 23, 2017

Korach: I want more, more, MORE!!!

This week, I find myself asking the question, "When is it enough?" I would argue that this query can be applied to A LOT of stories in the news these days. The healthcare debate certainly brings up questions of who gets more, who gets less,
and why. There are also stories about the ride service company Uber that might cause us to ask this same question. Though I especially found myself wondering about "enough" in regards to the commerce giant Amazon purchasing the grocery chain Whole Foods. There is an accepted "wisdom" among tech companies that I think is inherently flawed and generally problematic, and interestingly enough, we see people yelling about this very same issue in the Torah right now.

Moses is under attack. At least two different uprisings are launched against him, and, if nothing else, it forces everyone (including us, the readers) to examine the direction in which the Israelite nation is heading. Are they moving towards
a better place, and are they led by the best people for the job? Korach, the primary would-be usurper, along with Datan and Aviram, question whether Moses should be in charge, and whether the tribe of Levi should be managing the sacrificial rite under the authority of Aaron, the High Priest. Interestingly, the first attack they hurl at Moses and Aaron is: "You have gone too far!" In the Hebrew, the phrase is, "Rav Lachem," which could also be translated as, "You have too much!" Maybe it's too much power, too much influence, too much exclusive access to God's (proverbial) Ear. Whatever it is, I find the statement itself - the accusation - so fascinating... and so current.

Amazon purchased Whole Foods so they could expand (further) into the food industry. Why? Because everybody knows: If you aren't growing, you're dying. Obviously, being the best in ONE particular industry
isn't enough. Obviously, companies need to offer photo storage and video streaming and music players and clothing and gardening equipment and furniture and pharmacy products and E-readers and, and, and... It feels like a battle for world domination. Every company wants to be the sole retailer for their customers, and everyone wants to pioneer the newest market for... whatever; flying or self-driving cars, fancier smartphones, homes that think for themselves. When do we all get to collectively rise up and scream: "YOU HAVE GONE TOO FAR!!!"

To me, these races between Google, Amazon, Netflix, and any number of other companies highlight a real problem in society. Fierce competition doesn't always lead to bigger, better, newer, smarter. And trying to destroy one another and swallow up every other industry and competitor seems not only foolish but
dangerous. Korach and his associates raise some genuine issues with Moses and Aaron, but the antagonism and the toxicity of the debate lead only to destruction and chaos. It's not constructive or productive. And I fear that society today faces a similar problem. It may be a good mantra for all of us to hold in our heads - when is it "Rav Lachem"? When is it simply "too much" and we need to scale back? Four verses after Korach's attack, Moses throws it back in his face. He uses the same phrase, "Rav Lachem," about Korach's audacity, his chutzpah. Indeed, it is a question that EVERYONE needs to consider, on a global, societal, and individual level. Sometimes we all could use a reminder that "less is more." Now how do we get that message over to Amazon?

Photos in this blog post:
1. CC image courtesy of Kcida10 oWikimedia Commons
2. CC image courtesy of Michaeldsuarez on Wikimedia Commons
3. CC image courtesy of Infrogmation on Wikimedia Commons
4. CC image courtesy of FotoDawg on Wikimedia Commons

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