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  • Writer's pictureEve Was Right

38. Hell Hath No Fury like a Powerful Person Scorned

Parshah Korach

TL;DR of the Text

Major Themes

  • Breeding grounds for rebellions

  • How to create the illusion of justice

*Important attribution note: All quotes listed in this article are credited to the Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash. Here is an Extremely Clear Citation so I don’t get in trouble: Nosson Scherman, Hersh Goldwurm, Avie Gold, & Meir Zlotowitz. (2015). The Chumash: the Torah, Haftaros and Five Megillos. Mesorah Publications, Ltd.

Numbers 16: 3*

“They gathered together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, ‘It is too much for you! For the entire assembly - all of them - are holy and Hashem is among them; why do you exalt yourselves over the congregation of Hashem?’”

Some of the Israelites wised up to Moses’ act and told him, “Hey, you’re no better than us. God likes us, too.” Let’s see how well Moses, the pinnacle of patience and restraint, coped with that. Spoiler alert: they died. 

Numbers 16: 8-9*

“Moses said to Korah, ‘Hear now, O offspring of Levi: Is it not enough for you that the God of Israel has segregated you from the assembly of Israel to draw you near to Himself, to perform the service of the Tabernacle of Hashem, and to stand before the assembly to minister to them?’” 

Korah was the leader of the rebellion. As a Levite, he was singled out for elevated status and enjoyed many of the monetary benefits of the priestly class, but he was not a Kohen. He was almost, but not quite, in the inner circle: the same social status that has birthed so many rebels and coup leaders throughout history!

Numbers 17: 3-5*

“As for the fire-pans of these sinners against their souls - they shall make them hammered-out sheets as a covering for the Altar, for they offered them before Hashem, so they became holy; they shall be a sign to the Children of Israel. Elazar the Kohen took the copper fire-pans that the consumed ones had offered and hammered them out as a covering for the Altar, as a reminder to the Children of Israel.” 

Moses told the rebels to bring their incense offerings in fire pans to the Sanctuary to offer them to God, after which God would choose His preferred leader of Israel. They all died, and just as Vikings stuck the heads of their enemies on pikes to warn potential challengers, Moses had the rebels’ copper pans stuck on the Sanctuary. 

Numbers 17: 17-23*

“‘Speak to the Children of Israel and take from them one staff for each father’s house…You shall lay them in the Tent of Meeting before the Testimony, where I meet with you. It shall be that the man whom I shall choose - his staff will blossom… Moses laid the staffs before Hashem in the Tent of the Testimony. On the next day, Moses came to the Tent of the Testimony and behold! the staff of Aaron of the house of Levi had blossomed.”

It’s quite convenient for God to instruct Moses to store the prospective leaders’ staves somewhere where only Moses can go. Even more conveniently, instead of choosing a staff immediately, God took His time and waited until the next morning, giving Moses plenty of unobserved hours when everyone was asleep. 

Numbers 17: 27-28*

“The children of Israel said to Moses, saying, ‘Behold! We perish, we are lost, we are all lost. Everyone who approaches closer to the Tabernacle of Hashem will die. Will we ever stop perishing?’” 

What a depressing question to have to ask the person responsible for their well-being. 

Numbers 18: 20*

“Hashem said to Aaron, ‘In their land you shall have no heritage, and a share shall you not have among them.’”

The Torah makes it abundantly clear that the Levites didn’t get land as an inheritance, most likely as a way to address the Israelites’ accusations of unfair favoritism toward them. Technically, they did receive land because God gave the Levites cities within each region of Israel for them to settle in. They got land to live on, just not to own. In exchange, they received tithes, food offerings, and monetary offerings from every Israelite. 

The Levites didn’t exactly come out behind, but the Torah makes it seem that way because otherwise, the arrangement would have been too transparently unfair.

*Again with the Extremely Clear Citation so I don’t get in trouble: Nosson Scherman, Hersh Goldwurm, Avie Gold, & Meir Zlotowitz. (2015). The Chumash : the Torah, Haftaros and Five Megillos. Mesorah Publications, Ltd.



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