How Not To Stage A Rebellion

Charles Foster: The Story of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation Hartford, Conn., 1873.

Korach ben Izhar, I’ve misjudged you, and I owe you an apology. You challenged the authority of Moses and Aaron, and ultimately of God and Torah, and for that you paid, along with 250 of your closest friends. But this year, when I read your story, I looked beyond what you did and said, and saw a different side of you, a kinder, gentler side.

You rebelled against the status quo, against authority that in your mind, consisted of two brothers elevating themselves over the rest of the people. And you were right in stating that the entire congregation of Israel is holy; that’s what God said in Exodus (19:6), “You will be to me a goy kadosh u mamlekhet kohanim–a holy nation and a kingdom of priests.” It’s only natural that you‘d want to draw closer to God, and allow others too as well.

It couldn’t have been easy being a Kohathite; having to schlep all of the parts of the Tabernacle, and not being able to even look at the sacred objects on fear of death. Yup, it seemed like the kohanim had all the fun and all the glory.

You made God mad, and you know that never goes well. And when Moses suggested you and your friends show up with your fire pans, you didn’t remember what happened to Nadav and Avihu, and they were priests! That might have been a good time to back down and try to work with Moses. But you didn’t.

But your story has taught us important lessons. One, that challenging authority isn’t a bad thing; but you have to go about it in the right way. Two, if the status quo isn’t working, if things are getting stale and we’re just going through the motions, something needs to be shaken up–we need to make sure we don’t become complacent. Finally, we should all strive to draw closer to God in ways that work for us. When we reach out to God, the Divine presence reaches out to us.

Who is wise? One who learns from everyone.

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