Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Korach - 5774

My friends,

Last week we read how the Children of Israel were told that they will be wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, until all those who were twenty years old or more will die. Their children will be the ones who will enter the Promised Land. This week's portion begins with a rebellion lead by Korach, who was Moses's cousin. He questioned Moses and Aaron's leadership and gathered 250 individuals who felt the same way. Each one of them felt that he was holy and could serve in the Temple and be a better leader. Each one felt that Moses and Aaron had failed since they did not deliver on the promise - that the goal of liberation from Egypt was to get to the Promised Land.

Everyone in the camp came out to witness the confrontation between Moses and Aaron, and Korach and his entourage of 250 individuals, leaders of their respective tribes. In the presence of the entire congregation, Korach said that every member of the community was holy and, therefore, Moses and Aaron should not play the main roles in the Tabernacle and they need not tell the people how to live a sacred life. It is interesting to note that no one came out in defense of Moses and Aaron. They all just came out to watch the fight. It would seem that everyone was frustrated, being in the wilderness without any hope of getting anywhere. Just waiting to die. The populace had nothing to lose. It would be very easy to sway them one way or another, as long they can have some hope that things will be better.

Korach's punishment was that the earth opened up and swallowed him and his family, while the 250 individual died in a fire that came and consumed them while they were burning incense, acting as if they were high priests.

In view of what is happening in Iraq, where leadership has failed a divided and frustrated people, and they are killing one another, we can appreciate that the Israelites, although representing 12 tribes, never reached the point of a civil war. During the forty years of wandering, there will be other complaints and anger against the leadership, but thank G-d no killings among the Children of Israel.

Shabbat Shalom,