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By the CyberRav—Rabbi Rafi Rank
Shabbat Shalom, Everyone. CyberRav here with a bit of Aural Torah for you!
This past week has been a week of celebrity deaths. Ed McMahon, Johnny Carson’s permanent side kick, passed on. Farah Fawcet of Charlie’s Angels fame passed away after a valiant battle with cancer. And then most recently, the very talented and popular Michael Jackson died suddenly at the age of 50. It is Jackson’s death, more than the others, that has shocked the world and created a very powerful international expression of grief and sorrow.
What is it about Michael’s death that has so captured the world’s attention? If anything, the controversies he generated over the years should have tarnished his popularity and diminished his fan base. He underwent some 14 cosmetic surgeries that altered his face, lightened his skin; he sometimes retreated to the MidEast and ventured outside clad in a burka. Among his more serious missteps was the dangling of his baby outside a Berlin hotel window. And he was accused of sexually abusing two 13 year old boys on two different occasions. He was acquitted of those charges, but suspicion of his bad choices and improper preferences persisted.
Michael, nevertheless, was the American dream come true. This was a rags to riches story. He was born into a working class family. He broke into the spotlight at the age of 11. He was a tremendous talent, a perfectionist in both song and dance. He sold 750 million records worldwide, owned the rights to all of the Beatles songs, earned 13 Grammy awards, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice and was a billionaire, until the time of his death, when it was reported that on top of the tragedy, he was some $400 million in debt.
Sometimes a person seems to have it all. Our envy of that person may be evident or hidden, but the desire to enjoy the fame and the wealth and the talent is all part of a dream, or better yet a fantasy, that we as Americans cherish. But it is just as described—a fantasy, and perhaps a destructive fantasy for anyone who would be so foolish as to strive for it.
In this week’s parashah, Korach, we learn of a mutiny in the midbar, a rebellion led by Korach against Moshe and Aharon. Korach, a Levite like Moshe and Aharon, charged them with these words—Rav Lakhem—You have too much! And Moshe countered that charge with the exact same words—Rav Lakhem—It is you, all you Levites, who have too much or who have gone too far.
During these lean economic times, a time of consumer uncertainty and elusive profits, have we just witnessed a death that reminds us that it is possible to have too much, to have gone too far, to have had more than one soul can possibly endure without self-destructing? It really is not for us to judge Michael Jackson’s life, especially at a time when the details of his death are so sketchy. He was a great entertainer, but the possible lessons he leaves behind are equally gripping. We should not be too envious of those who have acquired so much, because sometimes so much is really too much and too much is never good.
This is Rafi Rank, the CyberRav, wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and encouraging you to spread a little aural Torah around your Cyber community!