Parashat Korach- Conflict and its Resolution

Ramban noted that the rebellion in this Parasha occurred after the Israelites realised they would be dying in the desert rather than crossing the Jordan into Israel, and Ibn Ezra commented that the appointment of Joshua would have been another pretext for revolt. Moshe and Aaron faced 250 of the first-born chieftains of the tribes led by Korach, their cousin, and Datan, Abiram and On of the tribe of Reuven. Korach argued that they were all holy, not just Moshe and Aaron and so there should have been a more equitable distribution of power.


Moshe prayed for a miracle, when he realised the extent of the revolt, and the ground swallowed up the rebels. The next day, he had to deal with complaints from all the people, and this time God proposed that a staff from each tribe be placed in the Mishkan overnight. The next day, Aaron’s staff had blossomed and produced almonds, whereas the other staves were bare. The people accepted that Aaron was chosen by God as their spiritual leader from that point.


Yeshayahu Leibowitz wrote that the flaw in Korach’s argument was highlighted by the contrast between the last verses of the preceding Parasha on tzitzit (the 3rd verse of the Shema) and the story of the rebellion. Korach had argued for the distribution of power on the basis that they were all holy, as if it had been granted to them at Har Sinai when the 10 commandments were given. This verse of the Shema states the opposite – “that you may remember, and do all My mitzvoth, and be Holy to your God”. Leibowitz argued that this means that you are holy by virtue of keeping the mitzvoth, and not as a matter of right.


R’ Jonathon Sacks focuses on the contrast between the 2 miracles. He argues that the violent disappearance of the rebels into the ground did not solve the conflict as the whole people complained the next day. Peace was restored after the gentle miracle of the sprouting blossoms and almonds. R’Sacks argues that force negates your opponent when persuasion engages the opponent, resolving the conflict peacefully.


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One thought on “Parashat Korach- Conflict and its Resolution

  1. Korach’s blunder was to say all of us are holy. He distorted the message of Hashem which was “you shall be holy” i.e you have the capacity to be holy. He was clever enough to choose a time when the leadership of Moshe was at a low ebb–the latest blow was to be told they would all die in the desert. Moshe was a good teacher but a poor politician. He should never have sent out the spies if he was not sure of their report.