Korach was a prominent, distinguished, known to be highly intelligent, and very wealthy (he was one the wealthiest men that ever lived) member of the Leviat tribe who felt slighted by Moshe, the leader of the Jewish nation, for being passed over for a more prominent job in the temple and his tribe. Levi’s son, Kahat, had four sons; Amram, the father of Moshe and Aharon, was the oldest. Next was Yitzhar, who was the father of Korach; then Chevron, and Uziel. Korach was hurt that the son of Uziel the youngest, Elitzafan was picked over him to be the Nassi of the Tribe. They say a woman can destroy a man or she can build him and raise him to spiritual heights. Korach’s wife put salt on the wound and said, “How can you let him do this to you!”; referring to Moshe. She fueled the fire. He would not have dared to oppose Moshe, had it not been for his wife, who inflated her husband’s ego and repeatedly assured him that he was on par with Moshe and Aharon. “You can be a better leader than they; you’re letting him make a fool out of you,” she said. This bad advice caused the downfall of Korach. The Ramban’s view is that the cause of the rebellion was the spies severe punishment which brought death to the generation of the desert. It was this which brought to the surface all the accumulated bitterness of the dissatisfied.
- The Sages teach us that neighbors have a tremendous influence on us. Thus is the case with Dassan and Aviram, whose tribe Reuben was situated next to Korach’s residence. He inflamed them against Moshe and the authorities by stating that their tribe too was skipped over from a prominent task in the temple inauguration. “He did not let your Nassi offer his sacrifice first but chose the Nassi of Yehuda, Nachshon ben Aminadav instead. Do you know why? Because his brother married Nachshon’s sister.” Also, he infused uneasiness in their hearts by stating “Why didn’t the tribe of Reuben get the Kehuna. Dassan and Aviram were very vocal in the rebellion against Moshe and Aharon.
- These personal accusations against Moshe prompted him to be defensive. A distressed Moshe countered to G-d, “I didn’t take one donkey of theirs nor have I wronged even one of them.” These accusations against authoritative figures, where they benefit personally without the consent of the congregation from the high community positions, has been an ongoing, and in most cases, unfair. It happened to yours truly early once when I was a volunteer co-gabai and head of my shul’s youth movement. My father warned me never take any community positions. He would frequently mention how my great grandfather was wrongly accused of stealing money from the community shul account which he was in charge of. Apparently, it’s an irresistible automatic reaction of people and a frequent pattern. If one does take money for his time of service, IT’S IMPORTANT THAT THEY SHOULD MAKE IT CLEAR!!!
Korach, Dassan, Aviram, their families, and all their belongings all perished – as a result of their punishment – a very spectacular and unusual death. The ground opened up and swallowed them up alive, while the two hundred and fifty of his assembly were consumed by fire by G-d.
After the incident of Korach, G-d got angry at the Israelites for accusing Moshe and Aharon of having killed two hundred and fifty men. He brought upon a deadly plaque. The Korach rebellion became a very costly incident. In order to stop the plaque, Moshe quickly ordered Aharon to bring a sacred pan for offering ketores. “Bring burning coals from the exterior altar and heap ketoret upon them. Then, let the smoke of the ketoret ascend to heaven and the plaque will stop.” Apparently, Moshe learned many secrets from the heavens when he went to get the Torah. This particular one he learned from the angel of death. If Moshe were to burn ketoret while standing before the angel of death, he would be prevented from performing his work of destruction.
The incident of the Korach rebellion left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth. It was the first time Jews rebelled against their leaders. Until that point many times, unfortunately, it was the faith in G-d that was in question. Here, Korach succeeded in putting doubt in the leadership. In order to reassure the people that its leaders are legitimate, in particular Aharon, G-d instructed to take twelve rods. On each rod, inscribe the Nassi of the tribe, on the rod of Levi, inscribe Aharon’s name, then place the rods overnight in the Ohel Moed. The staff of the tribe chosen for G-d’s service will blossom. Well guess who won, Aharon. He was the undisputed high priest.
- One of the reasons we have salt on our tables when we make the bracha of hamotzie lechem, (in fact, it’s a custom for it to remain there throughout the meal), is because salt never spoils. It is a symbol of indestructibility. Thus, G-d tells the Kohanim, His covenant with them is eternal as if it had been sealed with salt. It has many functions. It preserves food; it can burn. It was always found on the Altar. Therefore, it’s found on our altar, our table at home.
- One of the gifts of the kahuna is Pidyon Haben. Every firstborn is holy to G-d. A Jewish father must redeem his firstborn son by giving five shekalim to the Kohen. The commandment applies today. As soon as a newborn reaches thirty days, when he’s considered viable, this ceremony is performed. If it is not done at the thirty days, it can be performed at a later time. This is one of the ways we acknowledge G-d. At the most joyous time in a man’s life when he becomes a father, we acknowledge that whatever we possess, in reality, belongs to G-d. A person’s first acquisition is usually the most precious in his eyes. Therefore, we give the first to G-d to demonstrate He is the true owner of all that we have.
- The concept of tithes is introduced.
Credit to: Rabbi Avi Matmon