Korach The Jealous or Korach The Populist

Conventional wisdom is that Korach was motivated by the jealousy of Moses and Aron; that Korach was rebellious and looking to take power.  In Chapter 16 verse 19 we are told that “the congregation and korach  gathered in front of the opening of the Miskhan and the Cloud appeared in front of all the congregation.”

Rashi says on this, the night before korach made rounds to all the tribes  inciting them and telling them, it is not for me I am doing this, but for all of us,  the king and his brother the  Kohan” . This sounds like jealousy cloaked in populist rhetoric.

Ramban says something nuanced.  Ramban says originally the first born were to serve and even more so, originally all  or Israel was  allowed to build private altars for sacrifice, but then Aron was chosen to do the holy work in a mishkan and Korach argues on behalf of the first born. Furthermore,  it should be returned  to all of Israel because all  of the congregation of Israel  is holy.  This is the populist stance.  We are all holy and can worship and lead our own spiritual lives without the rabbinic leaders. We can be our own priests.

Hashem delivers the verdict and swallows up the korach and the congregation.   However, one must admit that Ramban’s interpretation  of Korach’s position is tempting. We are all holy, we can all serve hashem in our own way, without the centrality of the mishkan and  without the authority of the rabbis. It is tempting but not realistic.

A successful society requires Indian Chiefs and foot soldiers. An organized society requires wise and benevolent leadership- but it does require  leaders.  Korach’s populism was at best delusional and at worst evil.   As Rabbi Schwartz of OZ said. Korach’s populism leads to Venezuela, lawlessness and violence.


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1 Response to Korach The Jealous or Korach The Populist

  1. Chiefs and foot soldiers indeed- the Shikker Dovid can be my CO any day

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