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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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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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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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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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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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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Wealth and Ego

Wealth and Ego

Jun 22, 1996 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Korah

Our parasha this week bears and perpetuates the name of Korah, the arch rebel against Moses’s leadership.

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