Democrat, Pseudo-Egalitarian, and Republican Rebellions. Weekly Portion. Korah (Numbers5) Numbers chapters 16,17,18 (6 June, 2013, Sivan 28, 5773)
Duration ca.22 minutes
The portion for this week is named Korah (Korach).
[The Summary of this portion was in part facilitated by reference to that of Phil Chernofsky as given in Torah Tidbits.]
The Revolt of Korah.
Korah from the Kohath section of Levi together with Dathan and Abiram from the Tribe of Reuben and 250 of the leading representatives of Israel rebelled against the authority of Moses and Aharon.
The Sages point out that the Tribe of Reuben was on the south side of the tabernacle. The Levites were encamped around the Tabernacle. The Clan of Kohath amongst the Levites was also on the south side. The instigators of the rebellion were therefore adjoining each other. This shows the importance of keeping away from bad neighbors.
The Tribe of Reuben was in the south and the Kohathite clan of Levites (to which Korah belonged) was besides them.
18 And the standard of the camp of Reuben set out according to their armies; over their army was Elizur the son of Shedeur. 19 Over the army of the tribe of the children of Simeon was Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai. 20 And over the army of the tribe of the children of Gad was Eliasaph the son of Deuel.
21 Then the Kohathites set out, carrying the holy things. (The tabernacle would be prepared for their arrival.)
16 Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men.
Commentary of Rashi: Because both the Tribe of Reuben was encamped in the south and so too was Kohath and his sons also camped southward they became involved in the controversy of Korah. Woe to the wicked and woe to their neighbor!
The rebels claimed that the whole community is holy and everyone has equal rights. This was an attempt at Democratic Revolution. It may be a coincidence but Karl Marx, the founder of Communist Doctrine, was also said to be a descendant of Levi.
"We Were Not all Do-Gooders! Karl Marx from Levi and Friedrich Engels from Ephraim!"
Even though they claimed to be representing the whole of the community we see from the words of Moses that such was not quite the case.
The Levites already held a privileged position. They wanted more of the same. They were jealous of the sons of Aharon who were their kinfolk but held a higher status.
It becomes apparent that the Levites wanted more involvement in decision making and a higher status.
Datan and Abiram from Reuben and their fellow dignitaries from the rest of Israel were dissatisfied with the rule of Moses and Aharon, regretted leaving Egypt, and blamed Moses for not bringing them into the promised Land. They were not happy with having to stay in the Wilderness.
Moses proposed a test - both the sons of Aharon and the Levis of Korah were to offer incense before G-d.
G-d would then indicate whom He chose.
Moshe then called for Datan and Abiram, but they refused the summons.
Meanwhile Korach and 250 of the leaders had accepted the challenge and stood ready with censers in which were placed incense at the Tabernacle entrance.
Again Datan and Abiram were called out and again they did not come. Moses commanded all the Israelites around the tents of Datan and Abiram and the associates of Korach (who were neighbors of Datan and Abiram) to distance themselves. Datan and Abiram and their families as well as most of the followers of Korach were then swallowed up by the earth. [The sons of Korach however were saved and according to tradition had repented at the last minute. The Prophet Samuel was a descendants of Korah and we find some of the Psalms marked as to be sung in the Temple by descendants of Korah. Korah was a Levite and the Levites supplied the choir and musical instrument orchestration in the Temple Service.] The opening of the ground may have been due to the sudden appearance of a sinkholes or an earthquake. Fire then came down from heaven and consumed the 250 bearers of the incense censers. [The followers of Korah had been found both in the vicinity of Datan and Abiram and were swallowed up with them, as well as being amongst the 250 who were burnt up at the Tabernacle entrace.]
After the death of Korah from Levi and of Datan and Abiram from Reuben and the elders the people began to complain. They congregated against Moses.
God was angry and a plague began to spread amongst the people. Aharan (as commanded by Moses) took a censer and offered up incense and the plague was stilled but not before 14,700 had perished.
G-d told Moses to speak to the People and to take a staff from each of the tribal leaders. The name of Aharon was to be written on the staff of Levi. The staffs were to be placed in the Tabernacle. The staff of the person whom G-d would chose was to blossom. The next day it was seen that The staff of Aharon had blossomed. Moses showed the staffs to the People and each tribe took its staff back.
Nachmanides explains that there were 12 rods, including that of Levi, on which the name of Aharon was inscribed. This means that there was one rod for Joseph, rather than having two separate ones for Ephraim and Manasseh. Nachmanides explains that a quorum of 12 tribes is always maintained. Unlike the other tribes, the Tribe of Levi had preistly, administrative, and educational duties. It was not to inherit its own territory but to be scattered amongst the other tribes. In some listings of the Tribes Levi is not included. In such cases Ephraim and Manasseh will be listed as separate Tribes. When Levi is included, Joseph (i.e. Ephraim and Manasseh) will be given as a a single tribe. Nachmanides also says that the Torah is stressing that Levi is one unified tribe - not separate divisions of Leviyim and Cohanim - Priests descendants of Aharon..
The Leviyim were required to guard the Tabernacle which was a Precursor for the Temple. Kohanim and Leviyim were forbidden to perform the sacred tasks of each others. A non-Kohen/Levi may not work in the Temple.
Numbers chapter 18 lists special numerous offerings that were be given to the Priests (Cohens) sons of Aharaon.
In Biblical Times one-tenth of the agricultural produce was given to the Levites (Numbers 18:21).
The Haftorah (Reading from the Prophets).
This Shabat is Rosh Chodesh meaning the First Day of the Month. In Biblical Times these days were festive occasions.
Due to it being Rosh Chodesh a different reading from what would usually be read is selected from the Prophets.
The reading is therefore Isaiah 66.
Return. Isaiah ch. 66, Israelites will also return from non-Israelite Countries
YouTube Clip. The Return from non-Israelite Countries
Duration ca. 17 minutes
Israelites from Judah (the Jews), and from the Ten Tribes in the End times will return and re-unite. Descendants of Jews and of Israelites who assimilated amongst the non-Israelite Gentiles shall also return. The Tribal affiliation of each Hebrew individual shall be made known to them.
See also our Brit-Am Commentary to this chapter.