Korach “Unholy Desire” by Rabbi Ralph Messer

Korach/Korah -Numbers 16:1 -18:32

As the Children of Israel journey from Mount Sinai towards Canaan, they have received the Torah and are walking with a great expectation towards the Promised Land. With the LORD in the midst of their encampment, they have seen God’s wonders and overcome many obstacles. Having been slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, the people are now adapting to Godly order and Moses’ leadership. Through Jethro, the father-on-Iaw of Moses, further administrative structure and leaders have been established, in order to keep the peace among the tribes … but there are murmurings of pride and discontent. In this Torah Portion, Korah, along with 250 others, now raise their voices to challenge God’s leadership and confront Moses and Aaron.

“They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?”
(Numbers 16:3 NKJV)

Even though Korah’s words are veiled in religious equality, Moses, recognizing Korah’s outright rebellion against God, falls on his face before the Lord. God’s response through Moses appears to come quickly, as He instructs the people to assemble the very next day.
“Tomorrow morning the Lord will show who is His and who is holy, and will cause him to come near to Him. That one whom He chooses He will cause to come near to Him.” (Numbers 16:5 NKJV)

To demonstrate His will, God instructs each of the tribal leaders, the chosen and the challengers, to place a staff before the Ark of the Covenant in the Tabernacle.
“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Speak to the children ofIsrael, and get from them a rod from each father’s house, all their leaders according to their fathers’ houses-twelve rods. Write each man’s name on his rod. And you shall write Aaron’s name on the rod ofLevi. For there shall be one rod for the head of each father’s house. Then you shall place them in the tabernacle ofmeeting before the Testimony, where I meet with you. And it shall be that the rod of the man whom I choose will blossom; thus I will rid Myself of the complaints of the children ofIsrael, which they make against you. ‘”
(Numbers 17: 1-5 NKJV)

Ironically, this Torah Portion is named for Korah (Korach). Is it possible that God is honoring his rebellion? A deeper look reveals that the meaning of Korah’s name is “bald spot”. Whenever a bald spot appears on the head, it brings a marked discontinuity where, at one time, there was continuous hair. The formation of the bald spot carries a connotation of division -creating a separation where previously there had been unity.

At first glance, it appears that Korah was creating a division by rebelling against the very institution of the priesthood, or at least against its special status, saying, ” … all the congregation is holy, and the Lord dwells in their midst; why therefore do you elevate yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?” However, it soon becomes apparent that Korah and his followers did not despise the leadership of a priesthood, but rather they sought the priesthood for themselves, and did not want the High Priest’s office assigned solely to Aaron. Korah was seeking a democracy in the midst of a kingdom!

The spirit of Korah’s rebellion can be operating unawares in our own lives. Beneath the surface, out of view, the follicles of discontent are causing division and separation -symbolized by the bald spot -a growing discontinuity. Pride and selfelevation, knowledge of the Torah, arrogance and a judgmental spirit; assuredly, the Holy One sees and knows our hearts.

Korah was a son of Levi, birthed like Aaron into the priesthood. Korah had position, influence, authority, and specific responsibilities given by the LORD. Korah’s name was destined to stand out within the Torah itself, and he received an inheritance that would pass to his generations. Still, Korah’s bald spot revealed his heart and his discontent contaminated his thinking. Korah sought to usurp God’s authority, and emerged only as a leader of rebellion, driven by an unholy desire.
The earth subsequently swallowed Korah, along with his 250 followers, now separated from the congregation of Israel. Korah’s sons however, repented! Their repentance before God is counted as merit throughout the generations, and the name of Korah is restored and continues as the name for this Portion. Even through dissention, God exalts His own, so Korah remains as an example of God’s sovereignty -God’s will prevails.

The rod of leadership carried in the spirit of Korah remains lifeless and barren. It is Aaron’s rod that blossomed; Aaron’s rod that is the symbol of an office of authority appointed by God. Aaron’s special tribute was everlasting love. He drew the people near to the service God. By walking in his priestly realm, he elevated the whole body to a higher status.