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Parshat Korach

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

This week brings us the challenge that Korach and his pals make to Moshe and Aaron’s leadership. Interestingly looking at the narrative of the standoff we find that Moshe decided to handle the matter on his own, but when challenged as to why Aaron, his brother was chosen for priesthood, which looks like fraternalism, he calls upon Hashem to intervene to show it was Hashem and not Moshe’s own choice. However, reading on in the text it seems that the earth swallowing them up does not convince everyone. In Ch17 v6 the people confront Moshe and Aaron and say, you killed Korach and his followers and as a result of this there is a further plague and Aaron charges into the crowd with incense (Ketoret) and mercifully halts the plague in which 14,700 died, way more than the 250 with Korach.

The Torah narrative text and the commentators provide a fairly disjointed view of what happened, but with nevertheless an interesting perspective of the importance and possible lack of coherent crisis management both here and in the rest of the journey through Bamidbar. Korach comes along with his complaints, which are possibly justified and Moshe, chooses to try to resolve the conflict with an offering of incense. After Korach and his pals are swallowed up the people come to complain  why Moshe did you push them into offering incense without a command from Hashem, which is exactly what Aaron’s two sons Nadav and Avihu did and just as they were struck down so were these guys.

Taking a wider view, it could be that Moshe choice of challenge was not a great one, but once he had made the executive decision, Hashem as his boss backed him up and after the swallowing up told Moshe to gather up the incense plates and sanctify them to show Bnei Yisrael that the incense was not the problem. However this did not convince a larger rebellious group and Hashem in his anger lashed out in a plague.

Nevertheless, at this point we see the humility and greatness of Moshe and Aaron. Moshe basically decides to defy Hashem’s anger and sends Aaron out of his comfort zone to the people with incense. Aaron literally runs out with an incense plate to many of those who have already fallen ill (we are told and Aaron ran out between the dead and the alive) and we are told in the Midrash that Moshe battled with the Angel of Death to save many lives. Despite the battle they had with Korach and the continued rebellious complaint group Moshe and Aaron were prepared to stand up to Hashem’s Angel of Death and show the people that the incense plate could actually save lives even of those who were rebellious.

Well here we are travelling again to Switzerland this time and El Al have kindly given me an upgrade and I have the honour to be sitting next to Karnit Flug the hard working Governor of the Bank of Israel. I shared this Dvar Torah with her and her comments were, firstly perhaps Hashem should have chosen a woman to lead Bnei Yisrael she might have done a better job. Secondly she explained that before any decision even in times of crisis she always consults with her close group of colleagues and those who work with her and perhaps Moshe should have done the same.