Torah Portion: Korach B’midbar(Numbers) 16:1-18:32

Haftorah Reading I Samuel 11:14-12:22

This week we read a Torah portion that begs the question, why? Why, after the catastrophe of the sending of the spies, would something like Korach’s rebellion happen? Maybe a clue can be found in the two opening words, in Hebrew, of our portion. In Hebrew this passage begins with the words, “Korach took.” Korach found people who were vulnerable to his arguments. They were men from the tribe of Rueben, Dothan and Aviram were among them. If you remember, the tribe of Reuben was displaced from the normal privileges of the first born because of his sin against his father Jacob. That place of the first born was given to Judah.

Dothan and Aviram apparently had a long-standing grudge against Moshe and Aaron and refused to even come and meet with them.  All this led up to our portion today. Here we read the entire saga of rebellion, that led to the death of many. They allowed themselves to be misled by Korah. 

How was he so successful in his argument? First he began with a half-truth when he said, all the people were holy so why had Moshe and Aaron set themselves up over all of Israel? When we look back to Exodus 19:6 G-d did indeed say those words, “You will be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” when he made the covenant with Israel. However, G-d also spoke the leadership of Moshe and Aaron into being. Often arguments begin over misconceptions or half-truths, as we see here in this passage.

However, often the root cause for many arguments boils down to other motivations. An argument for the sake of truth is usually valid and life giving to both sides.  However, an argument for the sake of victory or domination ends badly. Here in our verses we read of an argument for the sake of conquering or victory.

There is much, we as G-d’s people, can learn from this story and apply to our daily lives. Think back, what motivated you in the past when you found yourself in the middle of an argument? Where you searching for truth, listening to the other person’s thoughts? Or were you only interested in being right at any cost?

When we look at Moshe’s response to Korach and his followers, we see several important things. In Numbers/B’midbar 16:4, Moshe’s immediate response was to fall down on his face and pray. This would help us all stay grounded in who we are and what the real issue is facing us. Do we really want G-d’s answer or are we only interested in coming out on top?

Moshe had every right to be furious at such groundless claims being made by Korach. Instead, he tried to reason with them. In 16:5-11 he told them to take their censers, add fire and incense, and come before the L-rd the next morning and G-d would choose who was holy. In 16:5 Moshe used the Hebrew word, boker. This word usually means morning but also a word that comes from the same root is bekur. This word means to examine or investigate. So, Moshe was giving Korach and his band the opportunity to sleep on it, think it through and see if they really wanted to go through with this? I think Moshe was hoping that given them time, they would rethink what they were about to do and change their minds. This is also important for us. Words spoken in haste or out of anger, can often lead to results we never really meant to happen. We must always take time and examine what we are about to say. We should ask ourselves, “Will this help or hurt the Kingdom of G-d?” Sadly, here Korach did not change his mind and it cost him his life as well as the lives of the people who followed him.

Korach was jealous of Moshe and Aaron. He wanted the honor and power he thought they had. If we are to live a purposeful life, our life must be built on giving, not just taking, as Korach did here in the first verses of our portion. True happiness is found outside of ourselves, in giving and helping others, in creating a deeper relationship with the Father. It is for this we were put on this earth.