As Yogi Berra is reputed to have said, "This is like deja vu all over again!"
People complain, God gets angry, people are punished.
But this feels a little different - and in light of the current situation please allow me to suggest some alternative perspectives on this parasha:
- Korach is absolutely wrong. He is questioning God's choice of Moshe as the leader of the people and of Aharon as the high priest. In questioning their authority he and his supporters are questioning God. This is expressed in most of the writings of the ancient commentators, and appears to be the mainstream way of understanding this rebellion. You can read some articles supporting this view here at Kolel.org, 5760 and here at UTJ, the Union for Traditional Judaism
- Korach is reflecting a popular movement in questioning the authority of Moshe and Aharon. After all, he is from the tribe of Levi, as they are, and believes that he has as much a right as his cousins do to serve God in the tabernacle. In fact, Korach may be more like us today, living in a democracy, than the other players in the story. Please read this commentary by Rabbi Mark Greenspan, of the Oceanside Jewish Center which examines this thought
- Korach may have believed he was justified in his complaint to Moshe and Aharon, but should have understood why he was really wrong. This commentary from a student rabbi explains why
Today there are many ways of questioning authority - with differing motivations and multiple outcomes. If we use the story of Korach as a trigger for discussing this issue, here are a few questions we might want to think about:
- How is it possible to know the motives of political and religious leaders?
- How can we try to understand the motives of those who question these leaders?
- What if we agree the question should be asked but disagree with what we believe is the motivation for asking it?
- How do these questions relate to the way in which we understand the world around us?
- How can we learn to use critical thinking skills to look at multiple viewpoints when we hold strong personal opinions?