Korach: Jewish Anarchy

The summer is very hard for us.  The heat.  Lack of child-care.  Lack of car. The heat.  Everything is uphill … both ways, and, of course, the end of the world as we know it, looming around the corner.

However, what makes it really unbearable is that my oldest daughter returned to her camp that she and her friend worked at last year.  Leaving us without her help for a month.  THAT is hard.  Ballistic missiles? Cool! Suicidal drones? No problem!  A tanking economy? Well, I don't have that much money anyhow.  But a lack of my oldest daughter? THAT is unbearable.


"The censers of these sinners, at the cost of their lives, let them be made beaten plates for a covering of the altar. For they offered them before Hashem; therefore they are holy. And they shall be a sign to the Children of Israel" (Bamidbar 17: 3).

At the end of Korach's rebellion, many of his followers, who decided to test Moshe and Aharon's authority, offered incense.  As a result, all of them were burnt to death at once.  And the censers that they used were to be beaten into plates to cover the main altar.

I always wondered, what is the connection between the censers and the altar?

So, I ran into a small explanation by Rav Shimshon Refoel Hirsch (I know somebody on this list who's going to be happy).

"…Since the text wants to emphasize the character of the censers as a 'sign': the censers will remain a 'sign,' which comes to teach and warn. In these censers, the offerers became sinners in their own souls! They sinned against themselves and brought about their own destruction! The text here connects the sin they committed against themselves to the purpose of the censers to be a covering for the altar: 'The censers of the sinners, etc., and they made them,' etc. The meaning of this connection is as follows: in their pursuit of honor, they sought to undermine the altar service that was commanded by God. In their attempt to do so, they lost their lives, and their destruction only served to strengthen the altar that was founded by God."

Simply put, their deaths were to serve as a sign that Hashem Himself chose Moshe and Aharon.  By reaffirming their authority, Hashem was also reaffirming HIS authority.

What Korach and his followers wanted to do was undermine Moshe and Aharon.  "Everybody is holy!" and with that, every man could "do what is right in his eyes."  In modern terms, we call that (spiritual) anarchy.

But the service of Hashem that we are involved in (symbolized by the altar) is non-negotiable.  It is something that has rules and regulations.  And when they sought to undermine all of that, they perished and their "remains" were made to be a sign to uphold the Torah, for future generations.

While we no longer have the Altar to remind us, we DO have history, and more than that, we DO have American Jewry as it stands today.  The last I heard, we had at least at a 70 percent intermarriage rate.  I was recently told that the Reform movement has even allowed their professional rabbis to marry out.  Unfortunately, when polls or censuses are made of American Jews, one is forced to wonder: how many are actually Jewish?

Thus, it's important to remember this lesson.  Changing things around, because one "knows better" or "feels better," will ultimately lead to one's demise.  We have a framework called the Torah and within that framework, we are given room so each individual can use their own strengths and weaknesses in their service of Hashem.  But, once you leave that framework, you are leading yourself and your family down a dangerous path.

Have a wonderfully quiet Shabbos!