Power or Influence?
Moshe Rabbeinu’s strong and dramatic quashing of Korach’s rebellion is a stark contrast to his generous and gentle response to an incident we encountered two weeks ago.
In Parshas Beha’aloscha, we are told that the Bnei Yisrael were complaining. They were tired of the manna and wanted meat. Moshe despairs and Hashem tells him to appoint seventy elders to help him. He does so and a Divine spirit rests on them. It also rests on Eldad and Meidad who were not among the chosen seventy. Moshe had selected six men from each of the twelve tribes and then removed Eldad and Meidad by a lottery. Nonetheless, they too were caught up in the moment of inspiration and started prophesying.
Yehoshua sees this as a threat to his leadership. But Moshe replies with stunning generosity:
“Are you jealous for my sake? I wish all of Hashem’s people were prophets!”
Why the difference in response? Why does Moshe not offer the same generosity and gentleness to Korach?
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks offers a brilliant answer.
People tend to think that power and influence are similar, if not identical. People of power have influence and people of influence have power. Rabbi Sacks explains that this is not so. If I share my power with others, I have less power. If I share my influence with others, they become my partners and my influence is shared more widely.
In other words, power is a zero-sum game, the more you share, the less you have. Influence is a non-zero sum game. The more you share, the more you have.
Moshe Rabbeinu had two roles. He was a melech (king) and a novi (prophet). Being a melech involves power, being a novi means influencing the people.
When it came to Eldad and Meidad, Moshe was more than happy for them to help him influence and inspire the people. Korach, however, challenged Moshe’s role as melech. As the Gemara in Sanhedrin (8a) tells us, a generation can only have one leader and not two. That is why he quashed Korach’s rebellion so effectively.
Teachers and parents are sometimes in positions of power but are always in positions of influence. Being good role models, encouraging fine behaviour and educating and inspiring others can have ripple effects way beyond those in our charge.
Rabbi J Golker