A drash on Korach

(I read this at my shul when I gave the drash this week)

Once there was a professor of anthropology at Harvard named Clyde Kluckhohn (not Jewish) who was a specialist on the Indians of the American Southwest. It was the 1950s, when Americans were richer and less cosmopolitan than we are today. Every summer wealthy East Coast professors and captains of industry would fly out to Kluckhohn’s ranch in New Mexico, which seemed incredibly exotic to them. He would throw cocktail parties and his wife Florence would prepare delicious little finger sandwiches full of a meat that was not quite fish and not quite chicken. Every year, a guest would invariably ask what it was, and Kluckhohn would loudly announce “rattlesnake!” At which point, at least one guest would vomit. “And that, my friend,” Kluckhohn would say, “is the power of culture.”

The power of culture: nothing physically had changed about the sandwiches. Only the guests’ interpretation of them had changed. There is nothing naturally disgusting about rattlesnake finger sandwiches — many cultures eat snake. It was only by growing up in their White American culture that his guests were socialized to believe rattlesnake was disgusting.

This shabbat we find ourselves faced with a similar situation: is this parshah chicken, or is it rattlesnake? Continue reading “A drash on Korach”