קרח

This week’s parsha deals with the most famous Israelite rebellion during their years in the wilderness.  Korach, the leader of the rebellion, is almost always seen as a man hungry for even more power than he already had (he was already a Levite and close to Moshe in status, relative to the people as a whole), and he therefore got what he deserved.  However, in reading the whole narrative through, it appears to me that he may have been voicing a concern that was shared by many, and not just the two hundred fifty men who joined him in being openly rebellious.  The Israelites were embroiled in a very emotional time in their collective conscience.  After being freed from four hundred thirty years of slavery (Shmot 12:40), they had seen the splitting of the sea, followed by the revelation at Har Sinai.  They were then supposed to proceed into Cana’an and receive the God-given promise of that land.  However, after sending spies into Cana’an, ten of whom gave a negative report, the Israelites learned that they were to wander the surrounding area for (nearly) forty years until their entire generation (except the two upstanding spies, Calev and Yehoshua) was wiped out – and only their children would merit to receive Cana’an like they were promised.  Last week’s parsha then ends with the public stoning of a man who broke Shabbat by gathering wood.  Why should it be so surprising to the reader, then, if a powerful man in the community were to try to challenge the current leadership for so failing the people (a view attested to, at least partially, by the Ramban, as I learned here)?

Korach was only

Trying to save the people

From forty dead years

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