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Jun 23, 2023 By Robert Harris | Commentary | Korah
The memory of Huey Long, and the continued concern over the role of demagoguery in American politics, comes to mind this week because we see a prime example of it in Parashat Korah—the figure of Korah himself. (The character of Dathan, played by Edgar G. Robinson, in The Ten Commandments, was essentially based on Korah). Korah was long vilified by the Rabbinic Sages, and of course the Torah itself condemns him as the paradigmatic rebel against the divinely sanctioned leadership of Moses and Aaron.Read More
Jul 1, 2022 By Joshua Rabin | Commentary | Korah
Every time I read this parashah, the hypothetical questions I ponder are endless: What exactly is wrong about Korah’s critique of Moshe? Would the Israelites not make it to Canaan if they were led by someone else other than Moshe? However, a deeper exploration of the parashah reveals that our tradition wants us to focus less on the hypotheticals and more on the powerful statement about leadership made by choosing Moshe and rejecting Korah.Read More
Jun 11, 2021 By Stephanie Ruskay | Commentary | Korah
Korah is most famous for challenging Moses’s authority, framing rebellion in the guise of populism, and calling on Moses to share power and religious titles. The Rabbis understand Korah’s call for shared leadership and responsibility as a selfish desire to see himself awarded the role of the kohen gadol. He did not actually want “people” to have power; rather, he personally wanted authority and prestige and framed rebellion as something he was doing for the greater good.Read More
Jun 26, 2020 By Marc Gary | Commentary | Korah
As I sit down to write this Torah commentary on Parashat Korah—the story of a protest against the political and religious authority of Moses and Aaron—tens of thousands of people are in the streets of our major cities protesting the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers and the killings and harassment of other black men and women throughout our nation. Of course, the two protests—the Korah rebellion in the wilderness of Sinai and the street protests in our major cities—have virtually nothing in common. Korah and his followers sought personal aggrandizement while the protesters out my window seek racial justice. Nevertheless, we should ask: What does our Torah parashah teach us in this pregnant moment of anguish and unrest?
Jul 5, 2019 By Rachel Rosenthal | Commentary | Korah
When is it appropriate to challenge a leader? While this week’s parashah, Korah, is perhaps the most dramatic attempt to answer this question in the Torah, this question percolates from the beginning of Moses’s tenure. At first glance, the answer would seem to be that Moses should never be challenged. As God’s chosen leader, the Israelites should submit to his authority in all cases. After all, things end badly for those who do not follow this course, as the story of Korah shows.Read More
Jun 15, 2018 By Shuly Rubin Schwartz | Commentary | Korah
Last month’s volcanic eruptions in Hawaii are just the most recent example of the violent displacement and destruction that natural disasters can cause. Looking at the photos, I was grateful to learn that no lives had been lost, but I couldn’t help thinking of the fate of Korah and his followers for spurning the Lord: “The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up with their households” (Num. 16:32). This strange parashah has always puzzled and disturbed me. What exactly did Korah and his followers do to merit such swift, cruel divine judgment?Read More
Jun 23, 2017 By Jan Uhrbach | Commentary | Korah
How to deal with a demagogue? Parashat Korah offers a case study in what works and what doesn’t.
The parashah begins with a dramatic confrontation. Korah gathers together with Datan, Aviram, On, and 250 community leaders, and hurls accusations at Moses and Aaron.Read More
Jun 23, 2017 By Alan Mittleman | Commentary | Korah
Korah is the first left oppositionist in the history of radical politics.
–Michael Walzer, Exodus and Revolution (111)
How shall we read the Korah story? What is his rebellion about? Is Korah the first left-wing radical? He seems to want to level the distinction between leaders and masses. All of the people are holy, he claims. There is no need for a priestly caste which, in the wilderness setting, is a governance class.Read More
Jul 8, 2016 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Korah
“Which do you prefer—your firstborn child, or the five coins required to redeem him?”
This disconcerting question is part of the ritual known as pidyon haben, the redemption of the firstborn son. Rabbi Asher ben Yehiel (13th–14th centuries) reports this question as part of the liturgy from the geonic period in his Talmud commentary, and it is duly repeated by his son Rabbi Yakov ben Asher and later codifiers of Jewish law.Read More
Jun 19, 2015 By Michal Raucher | Commentary | Korah
Sometimes leaders are wrong, and sometimes those who are meant to protect us actually hurt us. This basic fact is something we all know because we learned it in 1920s Germany with the rise of the Nazi party, in early 20th-century America with the implementation of the Jim Crow laws, and in Fidel Castro’s Cuba. For some reason, though, we have a difficult time acknowledging injustice and fighting against it, even when we see its effects. I think this is because we rely so heavily on our laws, our government, and on those who protect us that to admit they might be misguided or inflicting pain is to take some responsibility for reform.Read More
Jun 20, 2014 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Korah
Contentiousness, dissent, and upheaval mark the opening of Parashat Korah.Read More
Jun 5, 2013 By Benjamin D. Sommer | Commentary | Korah
Parashat Korah can be challenging for a modern Jew. There is a good guy in this parashah—it’s Moses—and there is a bad guy—Korah. Modern readers, however, often find themselves sympathizing with the bad guy.Read More
Jun 5, 2013 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Korah
This week’s Torah portion, Parashat Korah, is notorious for the infamous uprising against Moses.Read More
Jun 23, 2012 By Samuel Barth | Commentary | Korah
“Now Korah, son of Izhar son of Kohath son of Levi, betook himself . . . ” These are the opening words of our parashah from Etz Hayim, the humash of the Conservative Movement, which uses a translation that generally avoids archaic English vocabulary and style. So, we should be puzzled that this translation employs a word that is certainly not a part of common usage. Why not simply say, “Now Korah took“?Read More
Jun 25, 2011 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Text Study | Korah
The antagonist of this week’s Torah portion rises and falls, according to the midrash above, when the logical fallacies in his argument reveal his true intentions. Korah, leading a revolt against Moses and Aaron, challenges the brothers’ leadership as detached from the Israelite people.Read More
Jun 12, 2010 By David Hoffman | Commentary | Korah
From what time do they recite the morning Sh’ma [prayer]? From when [there is sufficient light] in order to distinguish between blue and white.
—Mishnah Berakhot 1:2
What was the nature of Korah’s great rebellion?Read More
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