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Korach Numbers 16:1 - 18:32

June 26, 2020
4 Tamuz 5780
Parashat Korach
Numbers 16:1 - 18:32


Dear Friends,

As we continue our journey through the wilderness of the book of Ba’Midbar (which literally means "in the wilderness"), it is revelatory to connect the ways in which our ancient story speaks with such clarity to the moment in which we find ourselves. If truth be told, that is always the case; only sometimes we need the support of our story more than others. I believe this is just such a moment.

Last week we had the story of the spies -- 10 who feared going forward and 2 who did not. That fear led to the decision that the people were going to wander in the desert for 40 years until the generation that had been in Egypt died out, except of course Caleb and Joshua, who were willing to trust in the Divine.

This week, we have the story of a full-blown uprising against the leadership of Moses by Korach. Korach can easily be seen as a silver tongued demagogue riling up the people as he puts his own interests forward. He seems even more so when we juxtapose him against Moses, the humble man with a speech impediment. The Divine refers to Moses as being humble as well (Numbers 12:3). On the other hand, Korach is all about Korach; he cares little for the people or for God. Korach wants power.

In contrast, Moses' humility is clearly on display in this Torah portion. Seeing Moses as humble, a true servant of the Divine, is understood by the 19th century Hasidic master, Sfas Emes. He sees Moses as being so far from pride, in the way in which he carried himself, that the people could not fathom his modesty. Moses does not respond to Korach’s insulting rhetoric by lashing out. Instead, he does something else; he throws himself to the ground upon hearing word of the revolt. In that moment, he has an opportunity to breath and not simply react and escalate the moment. He puts aside his ego for that moment in order to diffuse his own response.

Moses had opportunities to give up on the people, but he never did. Once more in this story, there is a moment where it seems as though the entire people are in danger and Moses and Aaron work in concert to avert that terrible outcome. Moses’ leadership ability does not come from arrogance. It comes from a worry that he will not be able to accomplish what needs doing. We see over and over again that the Divine provides opportunities for others to share the burden with Moses.

Korach and those like him trigger responses in all of us, not to mention the Korach that resides within us all -- that part of ourselves that has difficulty taking in the needs of those around us.

Moses provides us with another model of behavior, one where we move from the narrow place where it is all about us and no one else matters, to a place that is expansive. That place goes beyond the self and is the well-spring from which Holy community springs forth. It is that place where caring for and about others creates a better world. It is a place of healing.

As I wish you a Shabbat Shalom, I invite you to join one of the many book clubs springing up in our community (see below). Wishing you all health in the coming month, as I will be taking some needed vacation time and will resume my weekly emails in August.

Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

We encourage you to contact Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn if you are in need of pastoral care at

Wed, January 27 2021 14 Shevat 5781