Commentary for Korach

19 Jun

In last week’s parshah, the Israelites once again rebelled against God, and this time God finally punishes them, dooming the generation that left Egypt to die in the desert, never seeing the promised land. This week, some of the Israelites are rebelling once again, but rather than rebelling against God, they are rebelling against Moses and Aaron. The ringleaders of the rebellion, Korach Datan, Aviram, and On, along with two-hundred and fifty followers, who are all men of great repute within the community, have a fairly simple question: If all of us are part of God’s holy nation, then why are Moses and Aaron in charge of everyone else?

 

The answer, of course, is because God said so, but when the rebels persist in their revolt, Moses offers them a contest to determine whom God wants to lead the community. Tomorrow morning, everyone who wants to should bring a fire-pan filled with incense to the front of the Tent of Meeting, and Moses and Aaron will do the same, and God will do something to make known who should lead the community.

 

When the morning comes, God makes clear who the rightful leaders of the community are in grand fashion: by appearing in front of the community and threatening to destroy all those who stand against Moses and Aaron. God instructs Moses to tell the Israelites that anyone who no longer wishes to rebel should move away from Korach, Datan, and Aviram. They do, and those three and all those who still stand with them are swallowed up by the ground.

 

When Moses gives the Israelites instructions about the contest, he tells them to “take for yourselves” fire-pans full of incense. Moses’ choice of words is meant to remind the rebels that while there is a large group rebelling, that group is ultimately made up of individuals who must each make his own choices for himself. While Korach, Datan, and Aviram are listed as standing against God’s decision and are punished for it, On is not mentioned along with them. Just like Joshua and Caleb did last week, On does not give in to the mob mentality and instead he evaluates the facts and makes decisions for himself. This is an example we can all learn from.

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