Korah: A Summary of the Parsha

Korah and his followers rebel against Moses' and Aaron's leadership and are killed; God instructs Aaron regarding laws of the priesthood.

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Then a fire went out from God and it consumed the two hundred and fifty men of Korah's followers who were offering incense.

The next day, the whole Israelite community railed against Moses and Aaron, saying, "You two have brought death upon the Lord's people."

Then the Presence of the Lord appeared. God said to Moses and Aaron, "Remove yourselves from these people so that I may annihilate them in an instant."

The people fell on their faces with a plague sent by God, and Moses immediately sent Aaron to perform an incense ritual of atonement for the people. Aaron stood between the dead and the living and the plague was checked, even though over fourteen thousand died because of the Korah rebellion.

Then God had Moses get each of the chieftains of the twelve tribes to inscribe a staff. The finished rods were then placed before God at the Tent of Appointed Meeting in front of the Ten Commandments.

God said, "The staff of the man whom I choose shall sprout." And Aaron's rod did sprout with blossoms and almonds. Then God told Moses to leave Aaron's rod in front of the Pact as a sign for the rebellious. "Those who complain of Me must stop complaining lest they die."

Suddenly, the Israelites were scared that everyone was doomed to perish.

The Lord said to Aaron, "You and your sons shall be the priesthood. You shall take charge of the altar and partake of all the sacred offerings. All that the people bring to God shall be yours, including the best oils and the first fruits, but the first-born male and all the unclean animals must be redeemed according to value. You shall have all these sacred gifts set aside for the Lord, but you shall have no share of the land among the people. I am your portion and your share among the Israelites."

God continued to Aaron, "The sons of Levi shall have the tithe, the uplifted donation, as their inheritance for the work that they do in the Sanctuary. Thus the Children of Israel shall not approach the Tent of Appointed Meeting and die. You shall take one-tenth of all the tithes as a gift to the Lord. This shall be your contribution. You shall take the choicest portions for the Lord. Do not profane the sacred donations of the Israelites lest you die."

Questions for Discussion

1. Korah and his followers accuse Moses and Aaron of taking power and prestige for themselves at the expense of the community. Do you think Moses ever sought power? Why or why not?

2. Moses defends himself against these rebels by saying that the Lord will make God's presence known by how God kills these rebels. Then God opens the ground and swallows people and their possessions? Do you believe God did kill them exactly like this? Can God do anything at any time?

3. Aaron and his sons are again given the command to be the priests in charge of all the sacred offerings. Why was priesthood so important back in Moses' day? Is the function of a modern day rabbi to also take sacred offerings? How is a rabbi today different than a priest in those days?

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Nancy Reuben Greenfield

Nancy Reuben Greenfield has written three adaptations of the Torah, including an
interactive family version at www.TiptoeThroughTheTorah.com, and an engaging
Jewish immigrant novel, The Golden Medina, available on itunes and Amazon.