Shabbat Table Talk

Parashat Korach—Erev Shabbat, June15, 2018

Week of 10-16 June 2018

Torah portion: Numbers 16:1-18:32 / Haftarah:  1 Samuel 11:14-12



The Levite rebels proclaim to Moses and Aaron: “ You have gone too far! For all the community is holy, all of them, and Adonai is in their midst. Why then do you raise yourselves above the Lord's congregation?”(Numbers 16:3)


This Parashat begins with Korach, the great grandson of Levi and his friends, Datan and Aviram, from the tribe of Ruben. They incited a group of 250 people from the community to rise up against Moses and Aaron, questioning their authority and power in the community. They complained that they didn't see “the land flowing with milk and honey”. They felt these two leaders were too exalted and that the Levites should also be able to function as priests. Moses responded to Korach : “we do not judge, that is God's task. Is it not enough for you that the God of Israel has set you apart from the community and given you access to perform the duties of Adonai's Tabernacle and to minister to the community and serve them?” (Num. 16:9) The Levite rebels refused to accept their role and ended up being punished with death as the earth swallowed them up along with their families and all their belongings. Discontent continued to spread in the camp over the issues of roles, authority and status. The Israelites in each of the 12 tribes were asked to bring a staff with the name of their leader to the Meeting Tent to see who God would chose as the high priest. The following morning, the staff of Levi with Aaron's name on it had not only bloomed but grown almonds! He was confirmed as the choice of God to be the priest. Aaron wasn't looking for power despite what Korach and his friends thought. Nor did Moses ask for additional burdens of leadership for himself. He was constantly asking God, “Why me?” Aaron's role then was to reconcile the people once again to God. They had laws regulating the various payments for the Levites and Priests for their service in the sanctuary. The Priests were given a share of the sacrifices. Aaron and the members of his house were to be responsible for the sanctuary but only Aaron and his sons were to have the priestly role at the altar and the room within the veil.


In the present time, the Chasidim reflect that each person has a particular role in the community and these roles are delineated so that the community grows in spiritual health and each contributes to the welfare of the community with the unique gifts each one possesses. “Judaism emphasizes the worth of each person, the fulfillment of each person's sacred potential, and the recognition of our contributions.” (Frishman, p, 293).


In the Haftarah, the theme of authority and role continues with Samuel, the last of the Judges who is pressured by the people to appoint a king who would forge their loose tribal confederation into a nation. They wanted to have the status and power like the nations surrounding them. God calls on him to anoint Saul as the first King of Israel. Saul turns out to lack the character to be a just King. Samuel then anoints David as King.


For reflection and discussion: Are the various roles in your faith community clear? Are leaders chosen or assigned? Is it important to see that even the priest doesn't have all the gifts and needs the community to share various gifts for the growth of the community?


Bibliography: Fox, The Five Books of Moses (New York 1995); Leibowitz, ; Plaut, The Haftarah Commentary (New York, 1996); The Women's Torah Commentary, ( Korach – Rabbi Elyse D. Frishman) (Woodstock, VT 2000)



This week’s teaching commentary was prepared by

Mary Louise Chesley-Cora, M.A.T. Religious Studies, Hockessin DE USA, BK alum 2001


[Copyright © 2018]



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