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Torah from Dixie presents "Cloning in Jewish Law" 

Korach's Rebellion


by David Appelrouth
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer

Korach's rebellion is heralded as the greatest dispute of Moses' generation. Yet we know that the only time the Jewish people did not quarrel and were completely united in the desert was at the foot of Mt. Sinaie, and certainly other significant disputes are worthy of equal mention. Why should the Torah spend an entire portion elaborating specifically on the dispute with Korach?

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Korach's rebellion is heralded as the greatest dispute of Moses' generation. Yet we know that the only time the Jewish people did not quarrel and were completely united in the desert was at the foot of Mt. Sinai (see Rashi on Exodus 19:2), and certainly other significant disputes are worthy of equal mention. Why should the Torah spend an entire portion elaborating specifically on the dispute with Korach? The answer lies in the nature of this dichotomy. On the surface, Korach's legion sought the authority commanded by Moses and Aaron. Amram's children (Moses and Aaron) were the sole inheritors of the kingship and priesthood of Israel, while Korach, a cousin to Moses and Aaron, felt pushed out of power. Yet in a Jewish history interspersed with miracles and Divine law, Korach was not merely challenging the roles of Moses and Aaron as leaders of Israel; he was challenging the Highest Authority as well.

The portion opens with the words "Vayikach Korach," explained by the commentators to mean that Korach created a division with Moses. By ridiculing the recently received mitzvah of tzitzit, Korach challenged the authority of Moses. Datan and Aviram continued by mocking the laws of mezuzah. Amazingly, hundreds of people flocked to the rebellion against Moses and Aaron. Yet, keep in mind that these people were not lured by the failures of leadership. They were swayed by the arguments of Korach, whose assault was on Jewish law. This appears to be a conflict of interest: On one hand the Torah refers to the rebels' frustration over Aaron's "monopoly of power"; on the other hand they were arguing practical Jewish law and its role in daily life. Such confusion of purpose can lead a rebellion nowhere. As such, they must have been united under some common goal. What was that unifying factor?

The Kli Yakar, a classic commentary on the Torah, remarks that it was with good reason that the laws of mezuzah and tzitzit were in dispute, for they are fundamental symbols of Judaism. Tzitzit serve as a reminder of the 613 mitzvot which we strive to fulfill. During our waking hours they remind us of our role in this world and our subservience to Hashem. Similarly, the parchments inside of the mezuzah testify to G-d's oneness and supremacy. If we recognize the underlying theme of mezuzah in both "our comings and goings," we could never forget our obligation as the am kadosh, the holy nation. Through the performance of these two mitzvot, we elevate the world spiritually.

We now see the spiritual rebellion which Korach was really waging. Although he was witness to the miraculous in day-to-day life, he wished to forfeit the binding relationship between the Jews and Hashem for a false premise of "freedom". Thus the impetus for rebellion was a disdain for spirituality and growth, a disdain for the essence of Judaism. The Torah goes to great lengths to focus on Korach's downfall to teach us both the value of performing mitzvot in a proper fashion, and the peril and consequence of choosing against them.

David Appelrouth, a native Atlantan, just returned from studying in Israel.

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