Korah Had Options and So Do We

Korah Had Options and So Do We

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.

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When Push Comes to Shove: Protests in the Wilderness and in Our Cities

When Push Comes to Shove: Protests in the Wilderness and in Our Cities

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?

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How to Challenge Authority

How to Challenge Authority

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.

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Power and Gender in the Wilderness

Power and Gender in the Wilderness

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?

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The Antidote to Korah

The Antidote to Korah

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.

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Korah: Democrat or Demagogue?

Korah: Democrat or Demagogue?

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.

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Choosing Your Child?

Choosing Your Child?

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.

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All–Shall Be–Holy

All–Shall Be–Holy

Jul 8, 2016 By Louis Polisson | Commentary | Korah

Then he took
Perhaps that was the problem
That he took
And didn’t give

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Dissent Is Not a Dirty Word

Dissent Is Not a Dirty Word

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. 

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If What Wasn’t Is; Those Who Were Are Not

If What Wasn’t Is; Those Who Were Are Not

Jun 19, 2015 By Joel Alter | Commentary | Korah

A Distillation of Numbers 16:28-34

By this you will know
that all I have done
I have not done
of my own devising
but at God’s bidding:

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The Suffering of Loss

The Suffering of Loss

Jun 20, 2014 By Shira D. Epstein | Commentary | Korah

We have grown accustomed to an incessant newsfeed scrolling of horrific natural-disaster footage.

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Korah’s Fire Pans: Relics of Rebellion to Sacred Lessons

Korah’s Fire Pans: Relics of Rebellion to Sacred Lessons

Jun 20, 2014 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Korah

Contentiousness, dissent, and upheaval mark the opening of Parashat Korah.

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Where Does Holiness Come From?

Where Does Holiness Come From?

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.

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Thoughtfulness and Lovingkindness in the Face of Violence

Thoughtfulness and Lovingkindness in the Face of Violence

Jun 5, 2013 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Korah

This week’s Torah portion, Parashat Korah, is notorious for the infamous uprising against Moses.

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The True Sin of Korah

The True Sin of Korah

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“?

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Sympathy for Korah

Sympathy for Korah

Jun 25, 2011 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Korah

I have a great deal of sympathy for Korah and his rebel faction, despite the fact that they made life difficult for Moses, Aaron, and God.

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The Deeper Meaning of Sacredness

The Deeper Meaning of Sacredness

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.

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Korah’s Rebellion in Blue and White

Korah’s Rebellion in Blue and White

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?

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The Desire for Power

The Desire for Power

Jun 27, 2009 By Jonathan Milgram | Commentary | Korah

This week’s Torah reading, Korah, has a central theme: encroachment on the Tabernacle and its related punishments. No fewer than four separate uprisings are recorded in our reading, all associated with Korah: (1) the Levites against Aaron and Moses, (2) Dathan and Aviram against Moses, (3) the heads of the tribes against Aaron, and (4) the whole community against Moses and Aaron. The punishments for at least two of these rebellions are clearly documented: Dathan and Aviram are swallowed up by the ground and the tribal leaders are burned by a divinely sent fire. Korah’s fate, however, is not as clearly stated. It may be that he dies with the tribal heads or that he is consumed by the earth with Dathan and Aviram.

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Reading Like the Rabbis

Reading Like the Rabbis

Jun 28, 2008 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Korah

Grab a thick book and a cold drink and head for a comfy chair at a lake, beach, or pool. Lose yourself in luxurious chapters of artful narrative and savor the unique culture of a well-constructed novel or the incisive analysis of a work of nonfiction. This is the great joy of summer reading: to slow down enough to indulge in what is otherwise impossible, to enter the world of literature.

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