Torah Reading: Korach, B’Midbar/Numbers 16:1-18:32, 

Haftorah Reading: I Samuel 11:14-12:22

1.What connection do you see between Samuel in the Haftorah found in I Samuel 11:14-12:22 and this week’s Torah portion – Korach?  

In I Samuel 12:3-5 Samuel said he had taken nothing from the people. In Num.16:15  Moses said he had taken nothing from the people and had not hurt anyone.

2.This week the Torah section covers the rebellion of Korach, Datan and Aviram as well as the 250 leaders of Israel and finally the congregation of Israel. What does this progression show us? 

First of all, Korach and the Reubenites were next-door neighbors. Korach was from the Levitical family of Kohath. According to the arrangements for the tribal encampments, the Kohathites and the Reubenites both encamped on the south side of the Tabernacle (Numbers 2:10; 3:29). A perfect set up for gossiping with your neighbors.

Also, Korach was a graduate of the unscrupulous school of politics. He understood the three ground rules. 

First you have to be a populist. Play on people’s discontents and make it seem as if you are on their side against the current leader. “You have gone too far!” he said to Moses and Aaron. “The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?” (Num. 16:3).

Second, assemble Your allies.   Korach himself was a Levite. His grievance was that Moses had appointed his brother Aaron as High Priest. Evidently he felt that as Moses’ cousin – he was the son of Yitzhar, brother of Moses’ and Aaron’s father Amram – the position should have gone to him.  Korach could hardly expect much support from within his own tribe. The other Levites had nothing to gain by deposing Aaron. Instead he found allies among two other disaffected groups: the Reubenites, Dathan and Aviram, and “250 Israelites who were men of rank within the community. The Reubenites were aggrieved that as descendants of Jacob’s firstborn, they had no special leadership roles.  On his deathbed, Ya’acov declares that Reuben “will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father’s bed, onto my couch and defiled it”. Reuben’s behavior angered Ya’acov to the extent that he gave Reuben’s birthright (as firstborn) to Joseph 1 Chron. 5:1.The 250 “men of rank” were upset that, after the sin of the Golden Calf, leadership had passed from the firstborn within each tribe to the single tribe of Levi.  Their grievances were different and could not all be satisfied. But that has never stopped unholy alliances. “Hate defeats rationality,”                                                                                                                                                                                              Third, choose the moment when the person you seek to depose is vulnerable.  Korach revolt took place immediately after the episode of the spies and the ensuing verdict that the people would not enter the land until the next generation. Only when they realized that they would not live to cross the Jordan was rebellion possible. The people seemingly had nothing to lose. This paints a great picture for us and is a word for us about rebellion against G-d.

3.Who was Korach? What was Korach’s sin? 

Korach in Hebrew means ice. He was a Levite, a relative of Moses and Aaron. Maybe this is why Moses’ initial reaction was to fall on his face.  Those closest to us can hurt us the most. Korach presents his argument against Moses and Aaron in Numbers 16:3.Basically he was jealous of their position and not satisfied with what G-d had done for him. So he took it upon himself to rebel against G-d and with him many of the leaders of Israel followed. Could we say that rebellion against G-d is pretty much at the root of all sin?

4.What motivated Korach to lead this rebellion?

He coveted Aaron’s job. He was not satisfied with the position G-d had assigned him. Moses was clearly aware of what the problem was -Numbers 16:8-11. 

5.What did Korach take in In Numbers 16:1? 

In Hebrew it does not say he took men. The word “men” was added in to the English translation. For sure he took it upon himself to rebel against G-d and with him many of the leaders of Israel followed.

6.G-d leaves no doubt when we do not follow His plan. In this Torah portion Korach and his followers were swallowed up. In verse 16:34 it says that all Israel fled at their voice as they went down into the earth. Pretty scary stuff! In fact we would expect Israel to be duly warned by such a miracle. You would think they would walk in obedience for many years after this incident.  Is that what happened? How long did the awe of the miracle last? 

Numbers 16:41 says it lasted only one day.

7.Did all of Korach’s family follow him? 

No, we see where Korach’s sons wrote several Psalms. (Psalms 42-49 and 84-88) They made the right choice as we must.

8.What can we learn from Korach? 

Be sure of our motivation. Our question has to be, “Is our faith based on truth or like Korach on a lie.” I Peter 4:14-16 speaks of the fact that we may suffer, but let it be for our faith and not for any other reason. II Tim. 3:12  also shed light on this for us.

9.What happened to the pans that Korach and the others brought? What was G-d’s reasoning here? 

The pans were still holy. They were used to cover the altar of sacrifice. Each time a person came to bring his offerings he was reminded of the cost of sin. I would hope this reminds us as well. Our G-d is a holy and perfect G-d and we are His people – holy as well. The price of rebellion is high. May we always be faithful.

10.What issue contributed to Datan and Aviram problem with Moshe? The Torah gives us their family background. Which tribe were 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. On his deathbed, Ya’acov declares that Reuben “will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father’s bed, onto my couch and defiled it”. Reuben’s behavior angered Ya’acov to the extent that he gave Reuben’s birthright (as firstborn) to Joseph: 1 Chronicles 5:1. 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?