Posted on March 23, 2011
by Alex Krule
In this week’s parasha, Korach, we read one of the most archetypal narratives in the torah. Korach, a Levite, gathers followers and stages a coup. Korach wants the authority and power of being a Cohen, a job reserved for only descendants of Aharon; he is not satisfied with the power and respect of being a Levite. Additionally, two members of the coup from the tribe of Reuven, Datan and Aviram, question Moshe’s intentions. They accuse Moshe of leading the Israelites out of a land of milk and honey (Egypt) to the wilderness to die. This is where the story gets interesting. Instead of all-out lashing out at the rebels, Moshe decides to leave things to God. This shows a very important leadership quality in Moshe; instead of becoming angry at the rebels and not doing anything conducive, Moshe decides to refer to the Boss to help him. Instead of denying the allegations of the rebels, Moshe allows for consideration the idea that he may actually not be perfect and that he may be abusing his power. This shows that Moshe is willing to admit his faults and to put his own pride aside for the good of the people.
Moshe tells the rebels that they will be tested by God to determine the solution to the coup. Aharon, Datan, and Aviram are instructed to bring a pan of burning incense to the Ohel Moed (Tent of Meeting). Things seem to be going well, until God instructs Moshe to tell the Israelites to move away from the houses of Korach, Datan, and Aviram. Soon thereafter, their houses are swallowed up by the earth and a divine fire kills the 250 Levites who were offering the incense to God with Datan and Aviram. God clearly makes known His thoughts on the coup, yet many Israelites continue to blame Aharon and Moshe for their problems. God is so angered by this that he threatens to wipe out the nation, but Moshe tells Aharon to make an incense offering and end the plague that God send upon the people. Aharon then ends the plague and all seemingly returns to normal within the camp.
The next day, Aharon’s staff produces flowers and almonds, proving that he is God’s chosen priest. In order to prevent another coup from happening, the bowls used for the incense offerings of Aharon are melted down and used for a plating on the altar to remind everyone of the tragedy of Korach.
While this story is just another example of Israel’s complaining resulting in Moshe saving them from the wrath of God, I think that its message is just as important. As humans, we falter, but we also remember our mistakes and try to not repeat them. Let’s learn from the mistakes of our ancestors and try to improve our lives and connection to our faith.