This week’s parasha is Korach, Numbers 16:1 – 18:32,[i] the haftarah is 1 Samuel 11:14 – 12:22. Most of the parasha’s deals with the rebellion of Korach, HaShem’s judgement on Korach and his party, the rebellion of the people against Moshe and HaShem’s judgement on them, and Moshe’s intercessory action on behalf of those who spoke out against him.
Korach and the party he gathered around him made the following claim against Moshe and Aaron, “You’ve gone too far! All the community is holy—all of them—and ADONAI is with them! Then why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of ADONAI,” (Numbers 16:3)?
By this you will know that Adonai has sent me to do all these works, that they are not from my own heart. If every one of these men die a common death and experience what happens to all people, then Adonai has not sent me. But if Adonai brings about a new thing, and the earth opens her mouth and swallows them and everything that is theirs, and they go down alive into Sheol, then you will know that these men have despised Adonai. (Numbers 16:28-30)
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks asks, “What was wrong with Korach and his fellow rebels? On the face of it, what they said was both true and principled. ‘You have gone too far,’ they said to Moses and Aaron. ‘The whole community is holy, every one of them, and God is with them. Why then are you setting yourselves above God’s congregation?’”[ii] When one remembers HaShem’s words to Moshe at Mt. Sinai, it would seem that Korach was correct.
“So as for you, you will be to Me a kingdom of kohanim and a holy nation.” These are the words which you are to speak to Bnei-Yisrael.” (Exodus 19:6)
Moshe hoped that all of Israel would have the same relationship with HaShem as he did. This is seen in his response to Joshua concerning those in the camp manifesting the ministry of the Ruach Hakodesh.
“(Joshua) are you jealous on my behalf? If only ADONAI would make all the people prophets! If only ADONAI would put the Spirit on all of them!” (Numbers 11:29)
But, while Korach and company vocalized their complaint against Moshe and Aaron, Moshe recognized correctly that Korach stood against HaShem himself. Recently, Vered noted that when Moshe received an attack against him personally, against his character, he said nothing, leading to the Torah proclaiming him the meekness, most humble man (Numbers 12:3). However, when Moshe felt that the character of HaShem was in question, he spoke out, forcibly – both when he felt the attack was from without as with Korach or when he felt that HaShem Himself was doing something that might impugn His name or character,
I prayed to ADONAI and said, “O Lord, ADONAI, do not destroy Your people—Your inheritance that You have redeemed through Your greatness and brought out from Egypt with a mighty hand. Remember Your servants, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Pay no attention to the stubbornness of this people or to their wickedness or their sin. Otherwise the land from which You brought us out may say, ‘Because ADONAI was not able to bring them into the land that He spoke of to them, and because He hated them, He has brought them out to kill them in the wilderness.’ Yet they are Your people—Your inheritance that You brought out by Your great power and Your outstretched arm.” (Deuteronomy 9:26-29)
What we learn from this parasha is that Moshe was intensely concerned about both the people with which he was charged, as well as with the God he served. We too, at times, may find ourselves in the position of defending our faith and/or practice before those who feel we are in error. Peter’s words ring true at that point,
Always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, yet with humility and reverence—keeping a clear conscience so that, whatever you are accused of, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Messiah may be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:15-16)
There is another important point to learn from this week’s parasha. Just because someone quotes Scripture or paraphrases Scripture in such a way to make it sound like the truth, the reality is that while true it may be, the motivation or intention may be anything but good and proper. While Korach spoke the right words, his motivation was to displace the LORD’s choice. On a blog entitled, Life of a Steward the author notes,
As Christians, our motivation is crucial. The difference between righteousness and evil is often not what we do but why we do it. Furthermore, we have a tremendous ability to deceive ourselves. It takes a lot of honesty to look deep within and see that your motivations are off.[iii]
There was a time, when I was a young believer, I learned to argue well against those who had differing views than those I held to be right and true. Looking back on that time, I wish I could take back some of the communication, because while I was using Scripture to prove my position, my attitude was one of self-righteousness – I was right, and they were wrong. I now realize that while I still believe I was right, I know that they were not necessarily wrong, but simple interpreted Scriptures differently.
In this week’s reading from the Besorah, Luke 19:1-28, we read about Yeshua and Zacchaeus’ encounter with one another. Zacchaeus, a tax-collector, was socially considered a sinner, which brought about the charge from the crowd, “Yeshua has gone to be the guest of a sinner” (19:7)! Their words were technically correct, as they were motivated by common perceptions – but the motivation was misinformed. Zacchaeus the tax-collector had a change of heart due to the fact that “Today salvation has come to this home, because he also is a son of Abraham” (19:9). Korach operated under a wrong motivation, the crowds around Zacchaeus operated under a misinformed motivation. We must follow the admonition of the compiler of the Proverbs
Guard your heart diligently, for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)
[i] Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.