Short Ideas of Mine

"Vayikach Korach." What did Korah take? A lot of ink has been spilt on this question. So in the spirit of "Hashem chafetz lmaan tzidko yagdil torah veyadir" I offer another possibility. We notice that Moses suggests they bring fire pans for incense (machtot) to determine who is right. Where did Moses get this idea? Also, why did Korach and his band accept to challenge without any discussion? The answer is hinted later in the sedra when Aharon is told "kach et hamachta" (17:11) and "vayikach aharon" (17:12). The word kach is used in reference to the firepan for the incense (16:17) "ukchu ish machtato". Perhaps Korach was coming with a firepan and incense already, so Moses merely suggested he go through with his plan. This sacrifice was the one that most symbolized the High Priest for it was he who brought it in the inner chamber on Yom Kippur (see verse 17:5). So it is logical that Korach would choose this sacrifice to show that all Levites should be equal. He tried to take Aharon's special position. In general, the sedra focuses on establishing Aharon and his descendants as being the only ones who are allowed to bring sacrifices. Also emphasized is their special compensations in the form of sacrificial foods in place of a portion of the land of Israel. This emphasis was needed after Korach's attack on Aharon's authority.

Apart from the 3 different times kach is used in the parsha, Korach name's itself is similar to the word kach, only will an additional letter raish. Furthermore, Kach backward is chok, "law". The next parsha is the parsha called chukat, "Law of". Thus the response to Korach, the counter to him if you will, is law. Sometimes the law works to our advantage and sometimes to our detriment, but in either case, the law must be adhered to. Korach complained that the law was not fair, but any law system will be unfair in some case. A law system must weigh conflicting values and often sacrifice one value for another. The democratization of the priesthood would lead to its diminished regard. In any case, the "price of the law" is that it cannot accommodate all people all the time. But adherence to law is the only way a society can come to any just governance. Law is what Korach objected to and simultaneously the response to him.

It is pointed out that one of the signs that the argument against Moses and Aharon presented by Korach and his followers was not for the sake of heaven is that different people presented different arguments. Korah took the line of equality, whereas Dathan and Aviram argued that Moses was not bringing them to the land of milk and honey. This shows there attack was not high minded, but was simply using any mode of attack that was available. But why did Korach not use the argument which Dathan and Aviram used? This Sedra comes after Shlach in which the people are denied entry to the land of Israel, instead they are punished with dying in the desert for 40 years. Only their children would enter the land. So Dathan and Aviram were right, they were not going into the land of milk and honey. Moreover Dathan and Aviram felt particularly cheated since they were from Reuven, the first born, and should have gotten a double portion. Korach however was from Levy, and so even had they entered the land, he would not have gotten a portion. Levy's portion is the Temple service and tithes. So this argument would have sounded strange coming from the mouth of Korach who in any case had no portion of the land even had the sin of the spies never occurred. Instead, as a Levy, he argued for spiritual equality and perhaps equal tithes to all Levys and Cohens.

© Nachum Danzig