Thoughts on Torah Portion Korach

The recent class discussion on Korach was fascinating. We got into an interesting dialogue about how large organizations deal with people like Korach and what exactly Korach represents.

The limited information we have on Korach was that he was part of a powerful group within the Levites and was clearly trying to wrest control from Moses and Aaron.  This led to the class identifying him as a demagogue. And it seemed surprising that Korach was able to recruit 250 chieftains in his attempted takeover.

There is a lot of pop psychology writing today about demagogues and sociopaths in powerful positions and their skill at not only winning control of large groups of people but even their ability to convert weak minded people into sociopathic behavior.

Many of us have been shocked by the success of ISIS in using social media to recruit large numbers of people to leave their home countries and travel to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS. Is it possible that the leaders of ISIS are sociopathic personalities that know how to persuade people who feel persecuted into leaving the relative safety of their home environment to engage in this violent and dangerous business. Food for thought.

 I came across this summary of sociopathic personality in a recent article:

 Profile of the Sociopath (Demagogue)

• Glibness and Superficial Charm.

• Manipulative and Cunning.

• Never recognize rights of others, see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. …

• Grandiose Sense of Self. …

• Pathological Lying. …

• Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt. …

• Shallow Emotions. …

• Incapacity for Love, Compassion

• Need for Stimulation.

In reading some of the comments by psychologists who have to deal with sociopathic behavior it is striking how many of them admit that they really do not know how to deal with them because it is almost impossible to deal with anyone who are unable to experience shame or guilt over their actions. The other thing many of them describe is how astute sociopaths are at spotting the weakness of non-sociopaths and taking advantage of them using that weakness. And the principle “weakness” they exploit is the non-sociopath’s empathy for others and their feelings of remorse over doing things that harm others.

 Was this biblical story trying to warn us about this personality disorder? Maybe that it is a stretch. But it certainly raised my interest in learning more about it.

Mike E. July 3, 2015

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