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Parashat Korach (Numbers 16:1-18:32)

“And the Lord said to Aaron…I am your portion and your share among the Israelites.” (Numbers 18:20)

An old joke says there are two types of people: those who divide the world into two types of people and those who don’t. Parashat Korach offers a stark contrast between two types. The first word in the parasha, or portion, is a tipoff: “Vayikach korach, and Korach took…” (Num. 16:1) Korach is a taker. He wants to take power. He wants to take status. He wants to take the people’s respect. Korach is also what Erica Brown (educator and author who consults for the Jewish Agency and other Jewish non-profits) calls a “diminisher” because he wants it all at Moses’ and Aaron’s expense. So he challenges them publicly over the leadership of the Israelite people.

Moses and Aaron, on the other hand, are classic givers. Moses defends Korach and his rebel band before God (as he does over and over again in the wilderness for the stiff-necked Israelites), hoping to resolve the issue peacefully. Aaron, of course, is known as the paradigmatic, “…lover of peace and pursuer of peace” (Pirkei Avot 1:12) who “gives” his deeds to the community. This is why God chooses Aaron to be the High Priest.

In case God’s punishment of Korach isn’t a clear enough message which is the preferred ethos, Parashat Korach ends with God telling Aaron,” …I make your priesthood a service of giving…” (Num. 18:7) The Levites are not assigned land in Canaan like the other tribes. Instead, they are assigned the privilege of service, of giving. Jewish life is built on this concept of generosity of spirit and deed. It’s ironic the parasha is named for a Levite who clearly doesn’t get the memo.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom


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