At the time of writing, an election is about to take place, and, in all likelihood, there will be a new Prime Minister in Downing Street by the end of the week.

One could say that this is particularly appropriate for a Shabbat on which we read about a challenge to authority. But then, Parashat Korach is always topical! ‘Machloket’ and challenges to authority are rarely out of the news!

Korach introduces us to a new kind of would-be leader. Someone, with whom now we are becoming increasingly familiar. Korach is a populist. He engages in personal attacks on Moses and Aaron. He accuses them of nepotism. He alleges that the whole enterprise of the Torah and commandments is a fraud. Something that Moses has invented himself rather than received from G-d.

The populism of Korach is the politics of anger. He cleverly exploits the discontent that has spread amongst the people now that they know they will not see the land of Israel in their lifetime.

A populist politician claims that he, and he alone, understands the needs of the people. He promises strong leadership that will give the people back their pride. He is deliberately divisive and confrontational. His focus is on winning rather than necessarily being in the right. His goal is power, not truth.

Korach was able to tap into the resentment and disappointment of many of the Israelites who supported him because they thought they had nothing to lose.

In the end, Korach loses. But he doesn’t lose because he has conceded the argument to Moses. He loses because Moses invokes a miracle. The earth opens up and swallows his opponents. The resentment against Moses remains and the next day again the people clamour against Moses saying: “You have killed the L-d’s people!”

Force rarely ends a conflict. It is only after a different kind of miracle that the mood softens. The twelve tribes are required to produce sticks of dead wood that will be placed overnight in the Tabernacle. When Aaron’s staff blossoms into flowers and fruit the people finally accept that G-d has chosen Moses and Aaron.

In the runup to a general election hardly any politician refrains from making personal accusations against his opponent. The divisions in society are accentuated and any incoming administration has a lot of healing to attend to.

We wish the new Prime Minister and his government the blessing we say in shul every week: “… that they may uphold the peace of the realm, advance the welfare of the nation, and deal kindly and justly with all the House of Israel.”