This is a very hard Parshah. Honestly, aren’t most of them hard to digest? Here, we see that the fight for a better position, more privilege or higher standard of living is as old as time itself.
Korach, a man of distinguished lineage and great knowledge orchestrates a revolt against Moshe and Aaron.
When the text lists all the illustrious ancestry of Korach, it stops short of going down to Yaakov. Why? RASHI says that it is because Yaakov is beyond reproach and he even prayed to Gd to spare him this association.
|1 Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men;|
|2 and they rose up in face of Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty men; they were princes of the congregation, the elect men of the assembly, men of renown;|
|3 and they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them: ‘Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them; wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?’|
|4 And when Moses heard it, he fell upon his face.|
Why did Moshe fall on his face?
It says that he was (rightfully) afraid that Gd will no longer tolerate his pleading on behalf of the rebellious “stiff-necked” people. They have just witnessed so many miracles, yet there is always something that triggers their rebelliousness. How much longer can Gd tolerate this behaviour? Indeed, Gd is ready to finish this once and for all:
כ וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל-אַהֲרֹן לֵאמֹר.
|20 And the LORD spoke unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying:|
|21 ‘Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.’|
|22 And they fell upon their faces, and said: ‘O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt Thou be wroth with all the congregation?’|
I am inserting the beautiful Torah from Dr. Ackerman here:
Korach is a trouble maker. That’s why God warns the Israelites to stay away from him: “Separate yourself from the midst of this eidah, or community.” (Num. 16:20) We know an eidah means at least ten people, because last week, the ten spies who badmouth Canaan are called an eidah ra-ah, an evil community (Num 14:27). So when God says, “I will be sanctified in the midst of the Israelites,” (Lev. 22:32), the rabbis connect these three verses to determine the Jewish practice of requiring a minyan, or prayer quorum of ten individuals to read Torah and recite prayers that sanctify God’s name, such as the barchu, k’dusha, and kaddish (Babylonian Talmud Megillah 23b). Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook wonders, though: if prayer is a private matter between the individual and God, why do we need a minyan at all, and if we do, why does the ruling derive from two stories of rebellion-Korach and the spies?
Kook explains spiritual growth and sanctity require focusing on others, not on yourself (because that honors God, the creator). That’s why prayers require a minyan; without a community of others to benefit, the individual can’t climb to any true spiritual heights. Enter Korach and the spies. In each case, they are punished not only for their behavior but also for their negative influence on the community. Accordingly, the righteous also are rewarded not only for their good actions but for their positive influence on the community.
לב וַתִּפְתַּח הָאָרֶץ אֶת-פִּיהָ, וַתִּבְלַע אֹתָם וְאֶת-בָּתֵּיהֶם, וְאֵת כָּל-הָאָדָם אֲשֶׁר לְקֹרַח, וְאֵת כָּל-הָרְכוּשׁ.
|32 And the earth opened her mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods.|
|33 So they, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit; and the earth closed upon them, and they perished from among the assembly.|
|34 And all Israel that were round about them fled at the cry of them; for they said: ‘Lest the earth swallow us up.’|
|35 And fire came forth from the LORD, and devoured the two hundred and fifty men that offered the incense.|
Talmud, Sanhedrin 110a:14