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

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

 “…I make your priesthood a service of dedication…” (Numbers 18:7)

 “Ka-vetch, ka-vetch, ka-vetch.” Sally Fields made the line famous (playing Norma Rae), but the Israelites elevate it to an art form.  Parashat Korach continues the kvetching paradigm from the last two parashot (portions), only now, instead of just Aaron and Miriam complaining, or the ten spies complaining, Korach leads 250 rebels in a power play against Moses and Aaron (and God). Despite Moses’ three attempts to mediate the conflict, God kills Korach and his followers with an earthquake.  And the Israelites, not missing a beat, immediately begin to kvetch again.

A pattern emerges across the parashot: rebellion, marshaling of evidence against the rebels, and punishment by God through plague, battle, or natural disaster. There is, as usual, an unanticipated consequence of this pattern.  Because the punishments are all acts of God, and because the mishkan (Tabernacle) represents God, the Israelites now fear the mishkan.  Specifically, they fear disastrous reprisals for any mistakes made during the sacrificial service.  Therefore, God decrees that only the priests (with the Levites’ help) will be responsible for the sacrificial ritual; the mishkan becomes off-limits for everyone else.

This is all well and good, but a relationship based on fear, though, cannot endure.  It is not surprising, then, that in a few weeks’ time, the Torah reminds the Israelites that love, not fear, is the fundamental bond between them and God and is the basis of the brit (covenant).  The question is, can the Israelites (and God!) make the transition?

Good Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom

David

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