It’s interesting to look at the meaning of the names of the characters in our Torah. One notable one is Korach – the leader of a rebellion against Moses – which means ‘Bald One’.
Hebrew names are significant, a gift you give to a child and in turn hopefully the gift that child then bestows upon their parents. So, I often wonder why this name was given to Korach.
There were only three times when Israelites were permitted to shave their heads. The first was when a person re-entered the community and its religious life after recovery from a skin disease, translated from the Hebrew as ‘leprosy’, but it also has a link to the word for ‘gossip’.
Miriam was struck with this when she spoke out against her brother and so perhaps Korach’s moniker is because of the evil words he spoke against Moses as well.
The second time when a shaved head was permitted was to end a person’s time as a nazir, who like Samson, was someone who has vowed to not cut their hair and abstain from all alcohol. Perhaps Korach was ending a period of spirituality by attacking Moses.
Thirdly, it is part of the ritual of consecration for both priests and Levites when they commenced their service in the sanctuary.
Korach could have been expecting to be consecrated as a priest as he was already a Levite.
I shaved my head at 18, but it probably had a lot to do with rebellion.
I noticed people made assumptions about my politics, attitudes, sexual orientation and thought I was a veggie.
So what does ‘Korach’ mean? As rabbis, we often refer to the ‘children’ of Israel and, if we take that literally, then perhaps Korach is the teenager shaving their head, rebelling as a rite of passage and choosing to stand outside communal conventions.
Rabbi Charley Baginsky is Liberal Judaism’s director of strategy and partnerships