by APN's Summer Intern, Hannah Ehlers
This week’s Torah portion (Korach, Numbers 16:1-18:32) concerns the dangers of complacency and the unfairness of acting at the expense of others, matters relevant to events in Israel today. Korach leads a rebellion against Moses and Aaron. 250 followers join Korach to challenge the leadership of Moses and Aaron, demanding priesthood in addition to the “service of the tabernacle of God” (Numbers 16:9) to which they, as Levites, are already assigned. These actions by Korach and his cohorts, and the lack of opposition by the greater community, ultimately result in immense suffering—the earth swallows Korach and his men and a deadly plague spreads through the Israelite community.
God initially sought to destroy the entire community as punishment for Korach and his followers’ sins. But Moses and Aaron pleaded for fairness: “O God, Source of the spirit of all flesh! When one man sins, will You be wrathful with the whole community?” (Numbers 16:22). God relented and instructed the prophets to tell the Israelites to “depart… from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest you be swept away in all their sins” (Numbers 16:26). Besides the 250 men with Korach, the rest of the community is largely uninvolved in the conflict between the rebels and the prophets. God views the community’s indifference as betrayal and demands that they act.