Korach was not your ordinary troublemaker. He came from a privileged background — a leading member of the Kehatites, one of the most prestigious of the Levite families. He had a loyal following of 250 men of Israel.
He is seen in parts of our tradition as an “arch demagogue, lusting for power to inflate his own prominence, not to serve the people.” His challenging of Moses and Aaron is seen as not a legitimate controversy, but one that “was not in the name of Heaven.” Korach and his followers did not possess a joint vision, but were unified only in their opposition to Moses and Aaron.
Korach attacked the policies of Moses and Aaron in broad generalizations and selective offering of facts. He was not only challenging the authority of Moses and Aaron, but also the Torah and God.
There is much to be learned by this week’s parshah, from Korach and his challenge to authority, the way he presents himself and by his apparent motivations. We learn about arguments and how some arguments are to be dismissed, while others that “are in the name of Heaven” are worthwhile and lasting.
We are reminded of what happened to Korach and his followers: “The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up.” It is seen as a miracle. Perhaps it’s a warning as well, to all of us — to think of others and to make sure our arguments are for the good of the people and not selfishly motivated.
Shabbat Shalom! PJC
Rabbi Chuck Diamond is the leader of Kehillah La La.