Shabbat Korah 5773 (Rosh Hodesh Tammuz)

On the surface, Korah had a good point. “All the community are holy, all of them, and the LORD is in their midst.” It’s the challenge that follows that marks Korah as a rebel: “Why then do you raise yourselves above the LORD’s congregation?” (Numbers 16:3).

We might classify the tension in this week’s Torah portion, Korah, as a family disagreement. Korah is Moshe’s and Aharon’s first cousin. The rabbis (Midrash Bemidbar Rabbah18:2) explained that Korah’s beef was that as the eldest son of Yitzhar, he should have been entitled to a role as head of the family. Instead, that title was bestowed upon Elitzaphan, whose father Uziel was Yitzhar’s baby brother.  But there’s also a workplace tension element in the story. As Moshe rebukes him, “Now that [God] has advanced you and all your fellow Levites with you, do you seek the priesthood too?” (16:10). 

This month’s chapter for The Observant Life lunch n learn is “Among Co-Workers” (pp. 529-539). What lessons might we learn from the chapter about the Korah narrative, and what pieces of the Korah story are relevant to the modern workplace? 

As food for thought, consider the role of this traditional teaching about Korah’s contentious claims, found in Rashi: “He up and collected 250 heads of tribal councils, and put prayer shawls on them that were completely blue. They came and put this question to Moshe: ‘Must a tallit that is completely blue still have a fringe attached to it with a cord of blue?’ Moshe replied, ‘It must.’ They began to make fun of him: ‘A different kind of garment needs only a single thread of blue; can it be possible that this one, which is completely blue, still needs more blue?'”

How is this midrash a challenge to Moshe the professional?

Shabbat Shalom and Hodesh Tov,


Rabbi David Wise