Torah Portion: Korach B’midbar (Numbers) 16:1-18:32
HafTorah: I Samuel 11:14-12:22
This Shabbat we read about one of the most serious rebellions against Moses and Aaron. In this rebellion we see three different groups come up against the leaders of Israel. If you remember this rebellion occurs following the incident of the spies. The people learned that their decision not to go up with G-d and enter the land resulted in everyone over 20 years old being judged by G-d with the fate of never seeing the Land of Promise. I am sure the people were demoralized and downcast, ripe for insurrection.
Korach, a Levite, cousin of Moses, and influential person, sought more. His ego drove him. This Torah portion is one of the few named for a person. A few weeks ago we read the portion, “Jethro.” When Jethro came to the camp, he also saw a crisis. Moshe was overwhelmed, overworked, people lined up everyday to seek answers to their problems. What is interesting is Jethro’s response. Rather than seeking to exploit the situation, he offered advice that in no way fed his own ego. Moshe took his advice and implemented Jethro’s plan, averting a personal and national issue. A good example for us.
However, here we see Korah taking a different road. Here we see someone who sees an opportunity to grasp the role of High Priest. Since he was a Levite himself, he may have felt that he should have been in this role rather than Aaron. He felt slighted and saw an opening to take by force a role he wanted. He was not satisfied with what G-d had given him, the role where G-d had placed him. He wanted more.
This is a wonderful opportunity for us to learn a valuable life lesson. G-d has a place for each of us. It is not the same place for everyone but it is a role we can fill. Having different positions in our walk does not mean G-d loves us less or more than others. Our challenge is to be where G-d wants us, doing what He has for us and to be thankful for it. Korach’s ego drove him to destruction. It is not wrong to want to grow in the L-rd. It is wrong to covet what someone else has and to try to grasp it for ourselves.
Other actors in this drama were Datan and Aviram. On is mentioned but we do not hear of him again in this confrontation so we might conclude that he had a change of heart. What was the problem with Datan and Aviram? The Torah gives us their family background. Which tribe where they from? They were from the tribe of Reuven. What had been denied Reuven? He had been denied rights of the firstborn. He was the first son of Ya’acov. So for generations the tribe of Reuven had envied these rights that they thought should have been theirs. Moshe comes to them to try to work out this grudge that they seemed to be carrying. His efforts were rebuffed. Their actions should be for us an example of how not to handle an argument. They tell Moshe, “We will not go up.” Numbers 16:12-14 Their problem was not ego but a perceived slight to their great grandfather. Again, what can we learn?
In a disagreement what is the normal human reaction? We think or possibly even say, “I am right and you are wrong.” Compromise is difficult. We want to prove we are right and the other party is completely at fault. We try to validate our behavior and refuse to admit any failing on our part. Reconciliation can only happen by complete capitulation by the other side. For us as believers, we are called to a higher standard. We are to be peacemakers, to seek to reconcile rather than win the argument. II Timothy 2:24; Proverbs 15:1; James 4:1-3; Proverbs 26:21; I Corinthians 1:11. Datan and Aviram could not let go of a perceived hurt and it cost them dearly.
The 250 men that followed Korach may be in the same category as Datan and Aviram. Their problem could have been that the tribe of Levi was given the tasks of looking after and ministering to the Father rather than the first born of each family. Levites were set apart because they stood with G-d at the golden calf incident. So maybe again, the pride of the 250 leaders could have been hurt and they saw here a chance to regain what they thought was rightfully theirs They also paid with their lives for this choice.
My plea is for all of us to be able to love and not hate, to reconcile and not quarrel, to be a calming influence in a storm. These are qualities we did not see here with any of the people who rose up against Moshe. May it never be so with us.