Shabbat Korah

Candles - June 15th @ 8:09pm
Havdalah - June 16th @ 9:04pm

The rebellion, led by Korah, was the most serious challenge to his authority throughout the forty year period in the wilderness. It was not just a complaint against Moses personally, as others had, including Miriam and Aaron. It was an attempt at regime change. Which in fact was a challenge to God.

The punishment was that Korah and his family were swallowed up by an earthquake. “And the earth swallowed them up and their households and all the people that belonged to/were with Korah. And they went down, them and everything that was theirs.” (Bamidbar 16:32 & 33)

That seems pretty specific. It included his family and his children. And indeed, that was the assumption of the rabbis who wrote the Midrash. And yet a few chapters later the Torah says, “And the sons of Korah did not die.” (Bamidbar 21:11)

The Midrash gets around this problem by saying that down in the earth when it opened up, there was a sort of plateau, a promontory that the sons of Korah found to survive on and they managed to climb back out and preserve the family position as priests. It does sound rather fantastic. But there is another explanation.

The sons did not agree with their father. They were guiltless. The Torah says that sons are not punished for what their fathers do. But sons do not have to follow or repeat their parents’ mistakes. So that the sons of Korah were proof that it is possible to have a mind of one’s own.

According to Jewish Law, one must respect one’s parents even if they are sinners. But respect does not necessarily require you to follow them when their choices are wrong.