Korach is easily caricatured. ... In the biblical text of Parashat Korach, and in much of the Jewish interpretive tradition, Korach is a jealous demagogue, stirring up rebellion against Moses and Aaron in the desert.
In Parashat Korach, Moses’ cousin, Korach leads a rebellion against Moses and Aaron, demanding, “All the community are holy ... Why then do you raise yourselves above the Eternal’s congregation?” (Numbers 16:3). Often, Korach’s actions are interpreted to be the jealous behavior of one who sees himself as entitled to power. But what if his behavior reflects something different — a feeling of helplessness and a fear of being disenfranchised?
While Korach’s actions are often interpreted as jealous power-seeking behavior, his behavior may also reflect feelings of helplessness and being disenfranchised. Even in our own day, we see the destructive consequences of not taking seriously the concerns of those who feel disenfranchised. Perhaps, if we all listen more and assume less, we will find our shared divinity and harness our collective power to create the world we want to live in.
In the words of the historian and public intellectual Julian E. Zelizer, "We no longer seek debate, nor do many shuls even allow it to happen. We are having trouble being tolerant of the other side" ("The Closing of the American Jewish Mind," Tablet, December 9, 2015). The same could be said in the hermetically sealed ideological chambers of American popular culture too.
We see the consequences of this kind of intellectual narrowness and the absence of civil conversation in this week's parashah, Korach.
Korah is one of the great villains of the Torah; the leader of a rebellion against Moses.
The quotation from "That Lonesome Road" reminds me of something I learned from Jewish meditation teacher Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg: The word "wait," she says, is an acronym for the phrase, "Why Am I Talking?" And that's not always such an easy question to answer.
Pausing during a dispute, we may realize that the superficial content of the quarrel isn't what's driving the fighting. Looking inside, we see that we (and our opponent) are angry, resentful, or fearful about something entirely unrelated. Our hostile words are a facade shielding us from that underlying hurt or fear.
Chadeish yameinu k'kedem, "Renew our days as of old." (Lamentations 5:21)
How can we truly understand the slave mentality, we who have known nothing but gratuitous freedom in twenty-first century Western civilization?
No advance in wealth, no softening of manners, no reform or revolution has ever brought human equality a millimeter nearer. (George Orwell)
When Korah challenged Moses, he crossed the delicate balance between authority and freedom into chaos.
The ongoing turmoil among the Israelites during their protracted desert sojourn reaches its height in this week's Torah portion, with the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and their followers
False or opportunistic leaders prey on the public at its weakest, most vulnerable moments.
"Now Korah, son of Izhar son of Kohath son of Levi, betook himself, along with Dathan and Abiram . . .
Throughout the Bible, God is challenged. Abraham challenges God. Pharaoh challenges God. Jezebel challenges God. The Israelites constantly challenge God.
The title figure of this week's portion, Korach, is one of four rebels to launch an ill-fated coup d'état against the leadership of Aaron and Moses.
In Parashat Noach, Moses challenges the Korahites to a strange competition.
There is no question that Korach is the great parashah for individual responsibility and accountability.