Parashat Korah

Finding Ourselves Through Others

What are the consequences, or even the possibility, of separating ourselves from our communities, like Korah did?

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The following article is reprinted with permission from the Union for Reform Judaism.

Parashah Overview

  • Korah and his followers, Dathan and Abiram, lead a rebellion against the leadership of Moses and Aaron. God punishes the rebels by burying them and their families alive. Once again, God brings a plague on the people. (16:1-17:15)

  • The chief of each tribe deposits his staff inside the Tent of Meeting. Aaron's staff brings forth sprouts, produces blossoms, and bears almonds. (17:16-26)

  • The Kohanim and Levites are established and assigned the responsibility of managing the donations to the Sanctuary. All of the firstborn offerings shall go to the priests and all the tithes are designated for the Levites in return for the services they perform. (18:1-32)

Focal Point

Now Korah, son of Izhar son of Kohath son of Levi, betook himself, along with Dathan and Abiram sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth--descendants of Reuben--to rise up against Moses, together with two hundred and fifty Israelites, chieftains of the community, chosen in the assembly, men of repute. They combined against Moses and Aaron and said to them, "You have gone too far! For all the community are holy, all of them, and Adonai is in their midst. Why then do you raise yourselves above Adonai's congregation?" (Numbers 16:1-3).

Your Guide

Korah accuses Moses and Aaron of lifting themselves up above the community. Didn't Korah do the same thing when he "betook himself to rise up against Moses?"

We each exist in a number of communities--at home, in the workplace, in school, and in our congregation. When do we remain a part of the community and when do we separate ourselves from the community?

Do our responsibilities to our families conflict at times with our responsibilities to our communities? How?

By the Way…

It is not at first with our own hands that we pick the acorns and apples from the commonwealth of nature to nourish our own bodies. It is the hands of other people that supply the needs of our bodies, both in our infancy and beyond. For each of us lives in and through an immense movement of the hands of other people. The hands of other people lift us from the womb. The hands of other people grow the food that we eat, weave the clothes that we wear, and build the shelters that we inhabit. The hands of other people give pleasure to our bodies in moments of passion and aid and comfort in times of affliction and distress. It is in and through the hands of other people that the commonwealth of nature is appropriated and accommodated to the needs and pleasures of our separate, individual lives, and, at the end, it is the hands of other people that lower us into the earth (James Stockinger, as cited by Robert Bellah in The Good Society, p. 104).

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Rabbi Douglas E. Krantz is the spiritual leader of Congregation B?nai Yisrael, Armonk, N.Y.