May 26, 2024
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Korach: When the Ground Falls Out From Under You

Bamidbar: 16: 31-35

This could not be happening.

The Board of Directors Meeting was usually a casual affair, with snacks and beverages laid out on the table. Canapes. Crudites. Sometimes there would even be wine. But today there was nothing. Usually it was a somewhat jovial atmosphere. Laughter was not uncommon. That was definitely not going to happen at this meeting.

Today he was going to get the axe.

Richie couldn’t figure out how it had come to this. He had created Orange Computer himself, with his friend Roger Wurlitzer. They had built the first prototype in his garage and sold the first units at specialty shows. There had been no profits the first year, but as people began to appreciate the revolutionary design of their computer, sales began to grow.

They continued to create innovative computers, but as the company grew they needed help. So they went public, floated an IPO. Richie had chosen the original Board of Directors himself. As time went on the board hired a well-respected CEO. Bertram Roberts came from Coca Cola with a spectacular resume. He was a marketing whiz, and he would make Orange Computer an industry giant.

That was when things started to go south. Richie wanted to continue innovating, no matter what the cost. Bert wanted cheap computers that would sell at a low price, even if they were schlock. When Richie unveiled the Valencia, his new desktop unit, at a board meeting, he knew he was in trouble. It was truly a revolution in computing, but no one in the room seemed to care. When the price point was listed at over $1500 a unit, the company directors vetoed the entire project.

It was then that he could see the writing on the wall.

The company’s profits began to slide, and everyone blamed him. His mercurial temper and his intolerance for mediocrity certainly didn’t help his cause. But it was still his company, and he was still the president of Orange Computers.

Until today.

Richie hadn’t appreciated how sly Bert Roberts was. He had gathered the votes to eject him behind closed doors. Even Richie’s old friends had sided with Roberts. Now it was just a technicality. The meeting was just a rubber stamp. He was as good as gone.

He probably wouldn’t be fired until the end of the meeting. As he watched Bert Roberts discuss the company’s quarterly report he began to fantasize about what he would do to this troop of traitors if given the chance. Would he fire them? No, that was not enough. He wanted to tar and feather them in the corporate world so that they would never work in the computer industry again. In fact, he didn’t even want one of them to get a job as an ice cream vendor in the future, even if it meant the end of the company he built. Some sort of scorched-earth policy.

What was this week’s parsha in the Torah reading, Korach? Perfect! Now he knew exactly what should happen to the board of directors of Orange Computer and its perfidious Chief Executive Officer!

Moshe Rabbeinu had the right idea. Richie wanted the ground of the board room to open and swallow all 22 of the board members into the bowels of the earth. Yes, that would probably be the way to go. The board room was on the ground floor with just the basement below it. It could work. And Bert Roberts? Perhaps a fireball from heaven should come down through the elevator shaft and consume him, as it did all those who challenged Aaron as Kohen Gadol, as High Priest. That would be just fine.

As the meeting continued and the denouement of his tenure at Orange approached, Richie began to calm down. Perhaps he was overdoing it just a bit. Korach and his crew had revolted against God and his true prophet, and Moses was the most modest of all men. Certainly no one would accuse him of that.

Maybe he should accept his termination graciously. Sure, why not? Smile, shake a few hands, walk out the door with his head held high. The more Richie thought about it, the more he realized that was the way to go. It was definitely the high road, and if nothing else it would certainly annoy Bert Roberts.

He would cool his heels a while. Take a few weeks off, read a few books. Maybe he could take up golf.

And it’s not like he didn’t have any other opportunities on the horizon. Many companies had been knocking on his door, asking for him to join their team. Just the other day he had seen an interesting proposal from a company that was creating computer graphics that could have applications for movie animation. What was it called, Fixar? Wixar? Whatever it was, it sounded like it had potential.

He would get his act together, innovate in some new way and then who knows? Maybe he could come back to Orange Computer and set things right.

By Larry Stiefel

Stranger things have happened.

Larry Stiefel is a pediatrician at Tenafly Pediatrics.

 

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