Parashat Korach: Numbers 16:1 to 18:32

For Shabbat, June 23, 2023

Korach, a Levite, is a man’s name, and this is the second word in the opening line of our Torah portion. Korach is a kinsman of Moses and Aaron. Chapters 16 and 17 describe his challenge to Moses’ authority to continue leading Israel in the desert.

This narrative which results in God taking Moses’ side and the destruction of the insidious Korach, serves to point up the importance of the Levites and the Kohanim. Korach challenges the authoritative position of the Kohanim, claiming that every person is “equal” in the eyes of the Lord. The priestly control of the proper worship and rituals devoted to the Almighty is eternal. No person, nor group of persons can challenge this authority. 

There is an old Yiddish expression, “reikh ve Koyrakh,” which means ‘rich as Korach.’  What is the real source of this expression? It derives from the unusual first verse of our Torah sedrah. “Now Korach, the son of Yitzhar….took…” and the verse is left dangling like a participle. An object is missing! What did Korach actually “take?” The Midrash teaches us he “took” to himself 250 followers to oppose Moses and Aaron. The word to “take” in Hebrew (‘la’kach’) also means to “buy.”  So Korach not only took men, he “bought” men.  That activity requires oodles of money!

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