Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Korach - 5776

My friends,

Korah. a Levite and a cousin of Moses and Aaron, convinces leaders of the tribe of Reuven (first born of the twelve tribes) and another 250 individuals in questioning Moses and Aaron's leadership. They demonstrate against Moses and Aaron and accuse them of taking too much power for themselves. They say to Moses and Aaron: "You have gone too far! The entire community, all of them are holy, and the L-rd is among them. Why then do you raise yourselves above the congregation?" Imagine! Moses, who was described by the Torah as the humblest person in the world, is being accused of power-grabbing and of nepotism.

Moses tries to talk to Korah and his people but they refuse to come to a meeting. When he goes down to discuss the situation with the children of Reuven, they refuse to listen, and accuse him of having failed to deliver on his promise of the land that flows with milk and honey.

We know the end of this story. The earth opens up and swallows Korah and his family while the 250 men who had incense burners are consumed by a fire that "comes forth from the L-rd."

I see two important, relevant messages:

1) How was Korah able to assemble such a large group of disgruntled individuals? This story took place after the people were told that this generation will not enter the Promised Land. Wandering aimlessly in the wilderness was not much fun. They rebel. They have nothing to lose. I believe we can see that in our time. People with no hope for their future are easily drawn to negative and destructive behaviors.

2) The accusation against Moses. The most important virtue by which the Torah described Moses in the past is how humble and modest he was. Korah and his people accuse Moses of behaving in the exact opposite, with haughtiness and arrogance.

We know that eating blood is forbidden in the Torah. In preparing Kosher meat - from the way it is slaughtered, to the salting and soaking - we ensure that all blood is removed before consumption. And what is the ancient/new accusation against Jews? Blood libel.

The enemies of Israel today - like BDS and others - use words like racism, discrimination, cruelty, apartheid, even genocide, words that really hurt, in accusing falsely the people and the policies of Israel. Korah and his people used that approach and look where they ended.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram