Korach

  1. Moshe doesn’t go to Hashem for advice. Instead, he independently decides the test to be used. Why this test? Let’s consider the people involved. The Torah says they are ‘men of repute.’ The word used is ‘shaim’ or name. They care about their NAMES. They are the opposite of Moshe. So what does Moshe ask them to do? He asks them to do exactly what Nadav and Avihu did; bring uncommanded fire. He knows what will happen. But they don’t because they are so focused on their own names that they’ve forgotten Kedusha comes from Hashem.
  2. Two very strange things happen here. First, Moshe defends himself where he didn’t when Miriam insulted him. Second, he defends himself in the the strangest way. He says he’s taken nothing. What does this have to do with the complaints? Korach wants prominence, the people feel like they are condemned to die in prison. What do donkeys have to do with it? Is Moshe missing it? No. He is defending himself to Hashem, not the people. He isn’t defending his reputation, he’s defending his life’s work as a shepherd of the people. This is something Miriam never threatened. The only judge he cares about is Hashem.
  3. Moshe picks the punishment, again he doesn’t consult Hashem. How does he know the earth will swallow them? Jared told us the answer last week. Korach’s punishment wasn’t for him – it was a demonstration to the people. The people continue to think they need the land while failing to recognize their true inheritance is Hashem. By having the land eat Korach, Moshe demonstrates that the land is nothing more than a servant of Hashem.
  4. Korach’s death doesn’t end the debate. Repression, in this case, fails. Next thing we see, the rebellion has spread to the entire people. They still feel they are in prison. Up until now, Moshe has been in charge. Now Hashem takes over. So there is a plague. By why does Hashem cause a plague that Aaron can stop by giving an offering? An odd offering as well, running out into the camp? What is the point? The point, perhaps, is that Moshe and Aaron’s names do matter. Hashem is creating a situation where they are publicly standing up for the people. He is rescuing their names and showing the people that they aren’t repressors.
  5. But Hashem’s reputation takes a hit. Now, he’s the killer. So Hashem has Moshe conduct the miracle of the staffs – one of which turns into a tree. Why? The trees serve three purposes. They show Aaron is chosen, they show Hashem is about life not death. But perhaps most importantly, they show that Hashem chose Moshe as the shepherd – the person who does everything he can to protect the people. How? The tree that grows is an almond tree and the terms to describe it are the same terms used to describe the Menorah. The Menorah, in turn, represents the burning bush (it burns and is not consumed) – the point at which Moshe was chosen. Hashem is the G-d of Life, Moshe is a protector and Aaron is chosen to represent the people to G-d.
  6. But the people aren’t satisfied. They are scared. They essentially say ‘we are all gonna die.’ Why? Because if Moshe is on their side and Hashem is G-d of Life, but they keep dieing then clearly they aren’t up to the task. And so they ask for separation. With the Golden Calf they are separated because of their sin. But here, they ask for separation. And seeing it is inevitable, Hashem grants it. He states that the sins of the Mishkan are on Aaron and his sons. It further removes the Jewish people from the burden and dangers of Kedusha.
  7. Finally, we see a reminder that the Kohanim don’t get land? Furthermore, it is emphasized that the Maeser (tax) is paid to Hashem and Hashem gifts it to the Leviim. Why? Because the Jewish people need to think of the blessings of the land as coming directly from Hashem and because it is critical that the Leviim and Kohanim never be ‘consumed’ by the land as we saw so fervently desired in Shelach.

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