Announcing an important new book
available at Amazon.com and Powell Books:

"Faithfully Yours --
Selected Rabbinical Correspondence
of Samuel S. Cohon"

please read reviews:
- by Ephraim Z. Buchwald,
- by Mara Cohen Ioannidesand, and
- in H-Judaic

CDs with music by Baruch Cohon

Hanukka Party CD

"The Real Complete Happy Hanukka Party" - 30 songs in English, Hebrew, Yiddish & Ladino - all Hanukka songs and blessings needed for a fun-filled Hanukka!

In this CD Rabbi Baruch Cohon teaches us that each of us can be a winner. By focusing on love, gratitude and the ability to laugh we can improve our lives and our destinies!
We Wish You Love - Jewish Songs by Baruch Cohon

"We Wish You Love " - 10 songs by Baruch Cohon with the Israeli Entertainment Ensemble

Please also browse Rabbi Baruch Cohon's blog >>


Of all the leaders in world history, Moses stands alone.  Unique in his determination, his devotion, his thoroughly human strengths and weaknesses – and above all his inspiration, the Torah describes Moses as the only human who could converse with G-d “as a man talks with his friend.”  That Divine contact built a law-governed nation out of a horde of slaves.  That inspired quality enabled Moses to lead his unruly people through 40 years in the desert, and almost reach the Promised Land. Along the way, he and they dealt with hostile kings and marauding tribes, with epidemic and starvation and despair – but also with revelation and with victory. 

It takes a leader to do all that.  A leader, a statesman, a general, a prophet.  Not a politician. 

Anyone so unique motivates pretty strong feelings in those around him, and in those who learn about him.  Not so long ago, people called Martin Luther King a modern Moses.  Historians of the Civil Rights struggle certainly find in King some of Moses’ qualities.  Including the fact that he was not a politician.

In his own time, Moses faced several challenges.  A very serious challenge came from a man named Korach, a fellow Levite.  In fact, we learn that Korach and Moses shared the same grandfather. Commentators reason that it was family jealousy that drove Korach.   

Quite a talker, Korach assembled some followers and faced Moses in the center of the camp.  He made no bones about his goal.  He wanted to depose Moses and Aaron, and set himself and his henchmen up to replace them.  Korach called Moses a liar.  He said, in effect, “you promised to lead us to a land of milk and honey, and here we are in the desert.  How can you set yourself above us?  Who do you think you are?” He was a good deal more eloquent than that, as the Torah text tells it, and he had no teleprompter.  But that was the message.

Clearly, Korach was a politician.   Who supported him?  Not all his followers were Levites.  Some came from the tribe of Reuben – Reuben, tribe of the first-born.  What attracted them to Korach?  Maybe he told them that their tribe was getting cheated out of its rightful place at the head of the people.  Let’s have a little hope and change here!   Replace your leadership and we can all go back to Egypt.  We were slaves there but we had more to eat.  That’s what you wanted to hear, isn’t it?  Good, now let’s get rid of Moses.

How does Moses react to this challenge?   He invokes Divine intervention in the form of a sudden sinkhole that abruptly buries Korach and his whole party.  That ends the challenge to Moses’ authority, but it hardly alters the Jewish passion for argument.  In fact it does not even wipe out Korach’s line.  A few chapters later the Torah records that “the sons of Korach did not die.”  They are even credited in the Psalms of David with reciting certain songs in the ceremonies of the Sanctuary.  They learned from their father’s mistake.

What really happened to Korach and the others who were “swallowed in the earth?”  One interesting account appears in the Talmud in Tractate Sanhedrin, told by a scholar named Rabbah bar bar Khana who was known for his tall tales.  He says “once I was traveling through the desert, and an Arab guided me to a place where I found a hole in the ground.  I put my ear to that hole and I heard them calling out: Moses and his Torah are true and we are liars!”

So far as we know, no one else ever found that hole in the desert.  But listen!  The voices of Korach and his misguided political movement still echo.  We hear them apologizing to our enemies.  We hear them telling us that bankruptcy is really prosperity, and defeat is politically correct.  Pull out and go home.   Let the hostile tribes take over the world.  But don’t nuke Iran.  And of course squelch Fox News or anyone else that calls them on their disastrous policies.

What does the Torah have to say about the Obama administration?  Plenty.  Maybe the Torah is telling us that it is time to end the barren controversy – end it at the polls this November.  No rabid Tea Party, and no failed Hope-&-Change party either.  Just find some real leaders who will work for America’s people and our safety, solvency and security.  Not politicians.  Leaders.  Once elected, they will not begin their re-election campaign the next day.  Maybe we can take an idea from England and limit each campaign to six weeks, with no sponsored TV or radio plugs and a strict cap on campaign spending – by anyone.  Then maybe we – the great unwashed mass of voters – will know what the controversy is really about.

The Sayings of the Fathers – Pirkey Avot – go so far as to define two kinds of controversy.   One is the kind that has a future, like the debates of the schools of Hillel and Shammai as they search for the right ruling on a point of law.  The other is the kind that has no future, and the classic example of that is the controversy of Korach and his followers, rooted in jealousy, personal ambition and petty politics.

Let’s look for the real leaders.

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