top of page


Parashat Korach

By Dan Cohen

Parshat Korach - Let’s talk about it in the morning

I've made many poor choices in my life in haste.  Acting in anger, I’ve chosen to hurt the feelings of others to make myself feel better.  Acting impatiently, I’ve made poor decisions that led to interpersonal or financial crises. 

In this week’s parsha, Korach challenges Moshe and Ahraon’s leadership. He and a cohort of 250 Leviim believed they should have been chosen as High Priest. Moshe faces the challenge head-on and tells the angry hoard that they can make an offering to Gd, only one of which Gd will accept. If He rejects the offering, each will likely die. 

In Chapter 16, Verse 5, we read, “And he spoke to Korach and to his company saying: Let morning come and then Gd will make know who is His, and who is the holy one so that He will allow him to come near to Him. Whoever he will choose, He will allow him to come near him.”

Rav Hirsch notes the use of the word “morning” rather than tomorrow. Hirsch says that since the rebels' destruction would decide the dispute, Moshe wanted to give them all night until the morning to come to their senses.

In the Rashi, we learn that “Night is a time of drunkenness for us, and it is improper to appear before Him.”  Moshe intended to delay, hoping they might retract their opposition. Moshe wanted to give the rebels time to reconsider.  

Hirsch adds that the rebels would be sent home to spend the night in their tents and with their families. In doing so, each of them would be free from the influence of Korach’s incitement. Moshe hoped their separation might yield greater clarity about how ill-advised it was to provide an offering and question Gd’s selection of Moshe and Aharon.

It worked. The son of Peles failed to show up the next day, and his wife is credited with the wisdom of preventing him from participating. The same is true for Korach’s sons, who also reconsidered. Miraculously so, given their proximity to the coup leader.

Time can work both ways. The forces of evil and the yetzer harah, the inclination to do evil, never rest. For all of Moshe’s efforts to buy time and enlist the families to calm the fervor, he was up against a formidable foe.

In the Rebbe’s Chumash, he builds on Chapter 16, Verse 19, which says, “Korah assembled all the congregation against them at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting…”  He uses the Rashi, pointing out that while we are told about Korach's daytime actions, it alludes to his efforts the night before when people were sent home. Rashi writes, “All that night, he went to the tribes and enticed them [saying,] “Do you think I care only for myself? I care for all of you.”

Korach wasn’t in his tent with his family.  Instead, he went door to door, using fake empathy to sway and push them to action the next day.

Korach continued to put things in an “us” vs. “them” approach and besmirched the character of Moshe and Aharon. Korach (via Rashi) adds, “These [people] come and take all the high positions: the kingship for himself and the kehunah for his brother,” until they were all enticed.”

That’s the thing about rabble-rousers. In my experience, they are never still, and they are never honest. If someone vies to undermine your efforts, especially when you are fighting for the larger good, that person is never at rest. Like Korach, they will go person-to-person, desk-to-desk, and say or do whatever they can to undermine your efforts.

What can we learn from Moshe’s behavior here to guide our efforts to change the world and resist rabble-rousers like Korach?

First, leverage time. Cooler heads will often prevail (but not always). Moshe was strategically correct in sending the 250 men home to calm down and think more reasonedly. 

Second, hold people accountable. Rashi implies that not all 250 men were equally guilty. Yet they allowed themselves to be swayed. Even though they may not have all been rebellious, they had all been persuaded by Korach. Therefore, they all needed to be held responsible.

Third, “call the question” and recognize the outcome is out of your hands. Moshe clarified to Korach and the others that only Gd could decide. Therefore, Moshe told them to offer up incense. 'Calling the question' is a term that means to bring an issue to a head and force a decision. In playground vernacular, put up, or shut up.

Then, Moshe let Gd take over, recognizing that, at that point, the events were out of his control. This divine intervention reassures us that there is hope and justice even in the face of rebellion. Gd ensured that the earth swallowed Korach and other ringleaders, and the 250 men were killed in a fire from Gd.  

In politics, we often say, “Sunlight is the ultimate disinfectant.” Sometimes, the outcome becomes self-evident just by casting light and attention on someone's actions and intentions. A rebellion against Hashem, by any other name, and under any guise, is still a rebellion. 

Korach’s vile intentions were clear. Following Gd’s orders, Moshe told Korach and his followers to put up their best offering. The outcome then was out of his hands and in Gd’s.

I pray you never face an enemy like Korach, but it doesn’t hurt to prepare. Consider how you might use time, accountability, and finally, call the question while recognizing that the result is out of your control.


Add reaction



bottom of page