Questioning authority, asking for explanations and looking for divine signs are all part of our Jewish tradition and woven into this week’s Torah portion, Korach, from the Book of Numbers. On the surface, the story has Moses’ and Aaron’s leadership being questioned by others who feel they are just as capable and entitled. Not only are they proven wrong, their rebelliousness is harshly punished. Further acknowledgment that Aaron’s leadership is divinely sanctioned comes when God instructs that a staff of each of the twelve tribes is to be placed by the Holy Ark in the Tent of Meeting. God tells Moses that they are to be left overnight, and that only one of the wooden rods will sprout, indicating God’s choice for Israelite leadership. The next morning the only staff that blossoms is Aaron’s.
Rather than look in the Torah portion for literal lessons for our lives today, we might want to understand the portion’s message as saying it is acceptable to raise questions, but the way in which the questions are raised is important as well. True in ancient times, and true today regarding how we challenge our nation’s political leadership.
We can argue whether or not our electoral process is “divinely inspired.” Yet, how we ask questions and the tone we take when questioning the actions of our leaders and others with whom we disagree should still reflect the civility and respect to which our tradition would have us aspire. We are encouraged to question and challenge, but to do so in a way that encourages civil and respectful discourse.