Going for the Jugular

Have you ever seen a five-year-old stamp her foot and declare, “No! I will not”?

Whether it is parents in a family, political heads of a country, executive officers in a business enterprise or captains of ships like the Bounty, challenges to leadership come with the territory.  Part of effective parenting is to help your children understand that you hear their challenges and may even sympathize with aspects of their mini-rebellions and then to restore calmness and order.  Similarly, even statesmen like Winston Churchill engaged in saving their countries have to divert energy to deflect political assaults meant to unseat them.  Likewise, business professionals who have risen to success are accustomed to boardroom battles during which they are baselessly charged with every imaginable offense.  As Captain Bligh discovered, sometimes one has no alternative but to split the enterprise and lead the loyalists to survival.  Experienced leaders expect these kinds of challenges and respond to them calmly and decisively.

It is thus no surprise at all that the Israelites rebelled against Moses.  They did so frequently.  Consider this particular occasion:

And Korach…took upon himself to rise up against Moses, together with two hundred and fifty Israelites…They ganged up against Moses and Aaron
and said to them, “You have gone too far…” 
(Numbers 16:1-3)

What is surprising is that in the very next verse Moses reacts with such evident agony.

Moses heard and fell on his face.
(Numbers 16:4)

As he did in most of his confrontations with the people, Moses could merely have responded, as indeed he eventually does in verse 5.

What is verse 4 doing there?  In other words, what exactly did Moses hear and why did it make him throw himself onto the ground in despair? 

Happily for us, King David answered this question in one of the chapters of Psalms.  Referring to precisely this incident, King David explained:

They beamed zealous jealousy at Moses in the camp, and of Aaron, the holy one of the Lord.
(Psalms 106:16)

The Hebrew word I have translated as ‘zealous jealousy’ is KiNAh.  Its usage is rather particular.  For instance, when a man suspects his wife of infidelity, the feeling of zealous jealousy he feels is known in Hebrew as KiNAh.  In fact, in the relevant verse it appears no fewer than four times.

And a fit of zealous jealousy [KiNAh] comes over him and he is zealously jealous [KiNAh]  about his wife who has defiled herself; or if zealous jealousy [KiNAh] comes over one and he is zealously jealous [KiNAh] about his wife although she has not defiled herself.
(Numbers 5:14)

Amazingly, we now know why Moses didn’t merely respond with calm words to Korach and his mutineers.  Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that Korach and his gang accused Moses of seducing other men’s wives.  Moses was accustomed to the people challenging his leadership but this preposterous accusation simply took his breath away.   This is why when he heard this aspect of the mutiny, he fell on his face.  Only after gathering himself was he able to respond to them.

As we well know from our own times, prominent men are quickly brought down by charges of inappropriate behavior or conversation with or about women.   

Why did the repugnant Harvey Weinstein not simply respond to his accusers, “Yes, of course I sought intimacy with you.  You knew that. And in exchange you wanted fame and fortune. That’s why you came to my hotel room late at night”? 

Matt Lauer, Roy Price, Charlie Rose and many other degenerates collapsed at the accusations and faded out of public life.  I am not comparing these often-depraved entertainers to the mighty Moses, of course.  They were indulging the appetites they had spent their careers stoking in others.

The widely loathed former governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer resigned when the press revealed that he had dallied with a professional lady of the night.  On some level, he intuitively knew that he could not respond, “This is nobody’s business. I committed adultery. So what? Do you want to stone me?  We long ago ceased censuring adultery. Stop scolding me like a prudish spinster aunt and get back to your work!”  He too vanished from public life.

The accusation of abusing the force which attracts men to women is so incendiary that even innocent men like Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh cannot treat it lightly.  They would both easily relate to the intense reaction suffered by Moses.

It’s a paradox.  Decades ago elite opinion makers decided that there is nothing sacred about marital relations and that regardless of how bizarre anyone’s behavior, anything at all that willing adults choose to do with or to one another’s bodies is quite ordinary and certainly undeserving of critical comment.  Yet, powerful men are seldom accused of gluttony and bad table manners.  They are seldom targeted for their pride or sloth or any other of the seven deadly sins. Instead, the focus is on only one human failing – lust.

Here is one explanation to this paradox.  Deep in their subconscious hearts even men of reprehensible conduct suspect that they debased something sacred and splendid.  Gluttony, sloth, and even pride can be explained or even laughed away but the distance between depravity and the divine design of conjugality is just too great.  The accusation penetrates to shatter the very core of even bad men’s self-identity.  If one is guilty, there is no comeback.  If, like Moses, one is innocent, the charge is breathtakingly debilitating.  It is impossible to answer calmly without first taking a moment to mourn.

21 thoughts on “Going for the Jugular”

  1. We Christians have missed out by not knowing the Lord’s language and by not having been instructed in Torah. No wonder we have a difficult time sorting through the issues in our lives! We do indeed “perish” for lack of knowledge. We tend to resort to how something “feels” instead of being able to stand on solid rock.
    I am appreciative of my Rabbi and Susan sharing with us insights and knowledge gained from lifetimes of study.
    Best regards.

  2. All of the Patriarchs committed one or more sins. The one sin God seemed to hate the most was Thou shalt have no other god before Me. He divorced the ten tribes over that… I think that was the worst of all… Read Hosea!

  3. A wonderful teaching. In my area of ministry over 50 years, I have learned many things, but two come to mind. i) Of all the sins a man can commit, there is no sin like sexual sins that have completely unpredictable consequences! ii) Scripture teaches that we all, and in particular God’s children, have a “besetting sin”. A weakness of the wounded heart that keeps us humble and constantly in the presence of our Mighty God for His strength, grace and protection. The enemy of the heart, Satan, is constantly focused in destroying us, and for men – its very often sexually, due to uncertain and insecure manhood and masculinity. Yes, mature masculinity firstly starts from within spiritual masculinity and can only be brought to true maturity as we are re-parented by our heavenly Father, and then outflows to bless others. Today, more than ever, we must have an intimate heart to heart relationship with God to survive

  4. Good Evening Mr. and Mrs. Lapin,

    I have been pleasurably following your digital writings, reading your books, and listening to your podcasts for the past several months. My mission in the next couple of months is to purchase all of your CD audio series.

    Also, I have been following a Canadian psychologist by the name of Jordan Peterson. Many of his teachings and views seem to align with your ancient jewish wisdom. In fact, he recently released an eleven part “Biblical Series” primarily focusing on the teachings of the Torah. Many times throughout his presentation he made it a point to mention the fact that there is so much that he learned from reading the five books of the Torah but that there was so much more that he needed to learn. I thought to myself what if he was able to contact Rabbi Lapin for some in-depth clarification on the many many intricacies and nuances of the bible. I think it would be great if somehow Jordan and yourself came in to contact with one another and were able to collaborate on some meaningful and thought provoking topics.



    1. Yeah I follow Jordan too! It’s amazing to me how the teachings line up, both the Rabbi and JP having the same source of their message.

    2. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Adam–
      I think he’s a valuable asset in today’s cultural debates though he is strongest when speaking of psychology and most courageous when countering popular destructive trends. He’s weakest when he teaches on Bible. He has reached out to me and I hope we shall get together.

  5. It amazes me that the Holy One has not utterly destroyed this nation already. Then I am reminded of Abraham’s intercession for Sodom and Gomorrah and I realize that there is still a remnant of believers who have not bent the knee to Baal and because of them the Holy One has withheld His wrath.

    I suspect that the depravity, especially with respect to our sexualization of our children, our continued slaughter of the unborn, and the homosexual community’s attempted self-justification with the absurd claim that G-d made them that way, has caused the Holy One to begin to lift the hedge of protection from this nation. We need to turn from our evil ways, humble ourselves, repent, and pray for the Holy One to hear, turn, and heal our land. If we do not, our ultimate plight will be worse than that of Sodom and Gomorrah.

  6. The other night while watching the evening news I was shocked to see people all over the world celebrating ” Pride”! The newscaster stated that 61% of Americans surveyed approve of this! What has happened to our country and world! Lord we need you now more than ever!

  7. It is indeed an irony of politics, which Karl von Clausewitz declared to be “war by other means” … and an even greater irony in societies which otherwise celebrate and dignify sexual depravity – that the charge of adultery still carries so much force and weight.

    In this corner of the Twilight Zone our culture’s corroding forces end up mocking the very permissiveness they promote, before turning right around to defend it again as soon as we suggest abandoning the sexual revolution.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thank you Paul-
      Yes, it is ironic–what I called a paradox. But not that hard to understand when one recognizes the power of the force celebrated by Solomon’s Song of Songs.

  8. It saddens my heart to see how so many people have turned away from God, even Christians. I do agree with you about all the sexual immorality that’s going on in this world. It seems like nobody has a conscious anymore or any morals.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      True, Mary,
      Without God, as Dostoevsky said, anything is possible. He should have said ‘inevitable’.

  9. It is true that this 73 year old Messianic Christian has seen this erosion, hence prayer for our country has ratcheted up higher then it use to be. Thank You Rabbi simply for being you. May you & yours be richly blessed.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thanks Mike!
      Let’s hear it for ancient Jewish wisdom. Astounds me every day.

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