1.What verses in this Torah portion shows us that Moses began taking the criticism of these men personally? 

First, in Numbers 16:15 he defended himself to G-d after being insulted by Datan and Aviram. Second, he asks G-d miraculously and decisively to show that he – Moses – is G-d’s chosen leader. Moses allowed himself to be provoked by Korach’s claim, “Why do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly” and by Datan and Aviram’s offensive remark, “And now you want to lord it over us!” These were deeply personal attacks.  

Moses greatest strength was also his greatest weakness. His anger at injustice singled him out as a leader in the first place. But he allowed himself to be provoked to anger by the people he led. 

This is a pitfall we must avoid. When someone speaks negatively of us we must decide, first of all, do we respond at all? Secondly is our response a G-dly response or are we just defending ourselves for the sake of being right and winning the argument.

2.Korach’s words were the embodiment of what the Sages called, argument not for the sake of heaven. What does that statement mean and what proof in scripture do we have that it is a true statement? 

In Numbers 16:3 is the one direct statement made by Korach. But what an effect it had on the people.  The power of his words spread rebellion through the camp. How quickly our words can bring life or death. Korach was arguing with Moses, not to find truth or a better way to lead the people. He was arguing with Moses to advance himself. 

What do you do when you seek not truth but power? If you are truly seeking truth then your argument would be described as for the sake of heaven.  If you are seeking power then you attack not the message but the messenger. You attempt to destroy the standing and credibility of the one you oppose. That is what Korach and his fellow rebels tried to do.

As a general rule: if you want to understand resentments, listen to what people accuse others of, and you will then know what they themselves want. What the rebels wanted was what they accused Moses and Aaron of, a form of leadership unknown in the Torah and foreign to the leadership Moses exhibited. Scripture says Moses was a humble man. They wanted to “set themselves above” the L-rd’s assembly and “l-rd it over” the people. Simply put, they wanted power. They were not satisfied with their positions.

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.

Truth is not personal but power is. We see this play out over and over in scripture and in life around us. When Elijah met the priests of Ba’al on Mt. Carmel he stood on the truth of G-d and the priests of Ba’al were defeated. Any dispute for the sake of Heaven will have enduring value

Thought to ponder: In a contest for power, if I lose, I lose. But if I win, I also lose, because in diminishing my opponents I have diminished myself. If I argue for the sake of truth, then if I win, I win. But if I lose, I also win, because being defeated by the truth is the only defeat that is also a victory. I am enlarged. I learn something I did not know before.

3.Why, so soon after the sin of the 10 men who searched out the land, would these people plan a revolt?

In last week’s Torah portion, Numbers 14:20-23, the people were told they would not see or enter the promised land. So long as the people expected to enter the Promised Land, they stood to lose more than gain by challenging Moses’ leadership. He had successfully negotiated all obstacles in the past. He was their best hope. But as a result of the negative report, that whole generation was condemned to die in the wilderness. Now they had nothing to lose. When people have nothing to lose, rebellion can quickly happen. It was a perfect time and opportunity for Korach to lead them astray.

4. Korach spoke lies about Moses and Aaron long enough until the people began to believe what he said. Can you think of times in our history where this same thing happened and led to terrible results? Does it relate to what is going on with the antisemitism today.

Again, Korach was not interested in truth. He was interested in power. Hitler was not interested in truth he too was interested in gaining power.  He used the situation of the German people after WWI to get into power. Lies were spoken long enough about the Jewish people that the German population began to believe them and some willingly turned in their Jewish neighbors. 

Today people are on the same road. Antisemitism is growing stronger around the world. People are believing lies about Israel. They do not know the truth of what scripture says about G-d’s chosen.  People in our government and in the middle east are striving for more power.  They are about abandoning the search for truth in favor of the pursuit of victory and power. They are quick to discredit others and do whatever it takes to get and to keep power. 

I believe that has been happening at universities in America, turning the pursuit of truth into the pursuit of power through violent demonstrations. Speaking lies and demonizing a group of people they disagree with is the Korach rebellion of our time.

5.In Numbers 17:1-10 G-d told Moses to get a rod from each of the twelve tribes, write the name of the head of each tribe on the rods and put them in the tabernacle. The rod that sprouted would be G-d’s choice. First of all, why do you think G-d asked for a rod from each tribe instead of some other object? Also, besides the rod of Aaron, what other two items were placed in the Ark of the Covenant? Is there any common thread to these objects?

Psalm 23:4, A rod was a symbol of authority because shepherds would use a rod to guide and correct the sheep.

Exodus 4:2, In Moses’ earlier life he was a shepherd. He had a rod in his hand when tending sheep in the wilderness.

Exodus 4:20, Moses’ rod later became known as the rod of G-d, a symbol of the authority G-d gave to Moses. The people would have been familiar with the miracles G-d had performed with Moses’ rod.

Psalms 118:2, The L-rd will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of your enemies.” 

Numbers 17:25 says Aaron’s rod was before the Testimony to be kept for a sign against the rebels… but later in Hebrews 9:2-4 it says, “A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant.”

So, inside the ark were the tablets of the law that they broke, the manna that they complained about, and Aaron’s rod which was the answer to their rebellion. Maybe G-d chose these items to remind them of their times of rebellion to encourage them to think before going down another path of rebellion.