Korach, Datan, Aviram, and 250 leaders of Israel rebel against the authority of Moshe and Aharon. Datan and Aviram refused Moshe’s summons to negotiate. Korach and the Rebels appeared next day to undergo sacrificial contest test to determine G-d’s chosen. The rebellion results in their being swallowed by the earth. Many resent their death and blame Moshe. G-d’s “anger” is manifested by a plague that besets the nation, and many thousands perish.
The incense censers of the 250 men were collected by Eleazar, the priest and made into plates for the covering of the Altar of burnt-offering, as a warning that only Aaron and his descendants were permitted to burn incense before G-d.
When some blame Moses and Aaron, many were punished by a plague. Moses told Aaron to take a censer of fire and incense from the Altar moving among the people and prayed for their forgiveness, but not before 14,700 people had died.
Each prince of the twelve tribes brought a rod inscribed with their names along one with the name of Aaron, and were deposited before the ark. In the morning, Aaron’s rod alone was found to have sprouted buds, blossoms and almonds – a clear sign that G-d had chosen him to be the High Priest.
Because the kohians receive no portion of the land they are to receive the Meal-Offering, Sin Offerings and Guilt-Offerings, the portions of the Peace-Offerings waved on the Altar; the first-fruits of oil, wine and corn; firstlings of clean animals and the redemption price of the firstborn of men. In return for their service in the Tabernacle, the Levites were to receive from the Israelites 1/10 of the produce of the fields, and from this the Levites set aside 1/10 for the priests.
MAFTIR Bamidbar 18:30 – 32 ~ page 648
HAFTARAH Samuel I 11:14 – 12:22 ~ page 649
Samuel the Prophet renews the kingship of Saul, but he reminds the people that it is a bad idea to have a human king in the first place. Samuel, who was a descendent of Korach, exhorts the nation to follow the ways of G-d. He criticizes them for wanting a king while at the same time, pointing out that everyone, including the king, is subject to G-d’s law. The connection to this week’s Parsha is the fact that Samuel was a descendent of Korach. Whereas Korach expressed a right to interpret the Torah as he saw fit, Samuel tells the people that the success of the king and the nation is totally dependent upon their adherence to the letter of the law. In the end, it was Korach’s own grandson who founded our nations leadership upon the unquestioned teachings of Moshe Rabbeinu.
Parashat Study Questions
1. Was Korach’s rebellion against Moshe or Aaron? How does this relate to v. 16:12?
2. The rabbis explain that the donkey in v. 16:15 refers to Moshe not taking travel expenses for his journey. Do you think that is relative?
3. What similar Torah episode comes to mind when reading v. 16:22?
4. In the plague of Korach (v.17:14) 14,700 Israelite bystanders died. Is that fair?