Sedra of the week: Korach

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Sedra of the week: Korach

Rabbi Jonny Roodyn looks ahead to this week's portion of the Torah

Korach, the populist leader who led an insurrection against Moses and Aaron, seemingly came with a legitimate claim.

“For the entire community, they are all holy and God is in their midst. And why do you lift yourselves up above the community of God?” (Numbers 16:3) 

Since each one of the members of the community is holy, there is no need for a leader or priest to bring them close to God.

The irony is that, despite this claim, Korach sought to set himself up as a leader under the pretence of representing the public interest. It is this inherent contradiction that led to his downfall.  

Had he come with a rational argument, it would have been possible to debate with him; however, because it was based on glory-seeking and the desire for adulation, more drastic measures were needed.

As a result, Moses does not engage him in discussion. Had he done so, he would have been able to point out a fundamental flaw in Korach’s logic. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch notes that rather than being “holy people”, the Jewish People are anshei kodesh, “people of a holy calling”.  

Our task is to uplift ourselves to that goal and never confuse reality with destiny.

This is the idea behind the Tabernacle, whose control Korach sought to usurp. Not everyone has access to the various areas within it.

The Holy of Holies is open to the High Priest just once a year on Yom Kippur as a representative of the nation. 

The whole division of the nation and the camp into Kohanim, Levites and Israelites with a fenced-off sanctuary in the centre expresses that holiness is a goal to be attained rather than a given.

Rabbi Jonny Roodyn is education director of Jewish Futures and serves Finchley Federation Synagogue 

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