Korach – Rebel With A Cause or Seasoned Politician?

פרשת קורח Parsha Korach

Bamidbar/Numbers 16:1 – 18:32

Korach was born into male privilege as the first born son of a Levite — the same priestly tribe his first cousins, Moses and Aaron, were born into. As the first-born son of a Levite and a Kehotite, the most prestigious of the Levites, Korach was indignant that he wasn’t given Aaron’s position as High Priest.

Korach instigated an attempted coup against Moses and Aaron to [ostensibly] challenge the inequity of the priestly institution (kehunah), yet Korach himself demanded to usurp Aaron as the Kohen Gadol (High Priest).

The Chazal (Jewish sages) saw the essence of disunity and polarization in Korach’s contradictory nature.

The Talmud warns “one should not be as Korach and his company for he is the father of all quarrelers and his very name is synonymous with disharmony and conflict.”

Korach and his gang of 250 privileged and renowned male leaders from the Tribes of Rueben, all confronted Moses and Aaron, demanding to be High Priests. When Moses explains that he cannot make them all High Priests, they publicly accuse Moses and Aaron of exalting themselves over the congregation.

They combined against Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! For all the community are holy, all of them, and the LORD is in their midst. Why then do you raise yourselves above the LORD’s congregation?”

Bamidbar/Numbers 16:3

When Moses heard their words he “fell on his face” (Numbers 16:4), indicating he was humble and humiliated by the claims made against him.

Korach tried to raise himself up by putting his cousins, Moses and Aaron, down.

In an effort to bring things into perspective, Moses reminds Korach that, as a Levite, he already has status as a Temple officiant.

Korach said “all of the community is holy” but he didn’t try to elevate and empower the common folk without representation and socio-economic status, he recruited wealthy magnates from the Tribes of Reuben to join his mutiny, then tried to brow-beat Moses into handing the reins over to them.

Vayikach Korach – And Korah took — are the opening words in this Parsha. Rashi explains that Korach “took” himself away from the community and “took” some very influential men with him. He was considered a tzadik (righteous man) who took a wrong turn and was misled by his vision.

Moses tells Korach that his beef is with God, not Aaron.

Truly it is against the LORD that you and all your company have banded together. For who is Aaron, that you should rail against him?”

Failing to mollify them, Moses asks God for a miracle to settle the public challenge to his leadership.

God splits open the ground and swallows up Korach and his squad. Then “a fire came out from the LORD” consuming everyone aligned with Korach, followed by a plague for good measure.

Korach fought the law and the law won.

(If you get that song reference and can name the band, you win the internet for today).

Korach was an aristocrat that built his political platform on dismantling distinctions, but the changes he tried to enforce and his alliances, belied his words.

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7 thoughts on “Korach – Rebel With A Cause or Seasoned Politician?

  1. Korach, what an interesting fellow. People who grab for power thinking they can do a better job are tyrants in the making……..and it is a political play rather then a call of the spirit. I always learn something from your blogs, Abbi.

  2. Korach was born into male privilege with family, support , money and status. He was definitely a rebel without a cause. He was greedy and vicious. Shame on him.

    • His tactics represent a person that is lacking in self-awareness and doesn’t come into a situation or negotiation with peaceful intentions. He didn’t have peace in his heart and he was operating within a very privileged bubble of awareness…a prime example of cognitive dissonance.

  3. I like this example. I think we are all subject to looking at others that have something we wish we had and talk against them, or complain about what we don’t have rather than appreciating what we do have. Thankfully, God no longer opens up the ground and swallows us up! But, when we are envious and don’t appreciate what we do have, it can affect everything including our mental and physical condition.

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