For the week ending 6 July 2024 / 30 Sivan 5784

Parshat Korach

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair - www.seasonsofthemoon.com
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Korach, Datan and Aviram, and 250 leaders of Israel rebel against the authority of Moshe and Aharon. The rebellion results in their being swallowed by the earth. Many resent their death and blame Moshe. G-d's "anger" is manifest by a plague that besets the nation, and many thousands perish. Moshe intercedes once again for the people. He instructs Aharon to atone for them and the plague stops.

Then, G-d commands that staffs, each inscribed with the name of one of the tribes, be placed in the Mishkan. In the morning, the staff of Levi, bearing Aharon's name, sprouts, buds, blossoms and yields ripe almonds. This provides Divine confirmation that Levi's tribe is chosen for priesthood and verifies Aharon's position as Kohen Gadol, High Priest. The specific duties of the levi'im and kohanim are stated. The kohanim were not to be landowners, but were to receive their sustenance from the tithes and other mandated gifts brought by the people. Also taught in this week's Torah portion are the laws of the first fruits, redemption of the firstborn and various laws of offerings.


A Holy Kick-Back?

It shall be yours and your sons…” (18:9)

One of Judaism’s great gifts to the world is the concept that the physical is not the sworn enemy of the spiritual. The physical is capable of elevation, and like a donkey that transports its rider, so too does the physical ‘transport’ the spiritual to its ultimate destination.

Indeed, that word in Hebrew for a donkey is chamor, which has the root meaning of physicality.

“…It shall be yours and your sons”

The kohanim, the priests, receive part of the holiest offerings in the Temple. There is no contradiction between their physical eating and the elevation that offering brings spiritually.

This is a seemingly difficult concept. The idea that “the kohen eats parts of the sin-offering and the supplicant receives atonement” might look like a ‘kick-back.’ And, it is for this reason that the only offering a Gentile was allowed to bring in the Holy Temple was a korban olah, an ‘elevation’ offering. An Olah goes ‘up in smoke,’ meaning that the kohen receives nothing from it. This sits well with the mindset of the general world-view.

Even though we know longer have a Holy Temple, and the kohanim are, at least regarding sacrificial offerings, temporarily out of a job, we still have the holy Shabbat. It is a day of physical pleasure which, nevertheless, brings holiness into time itself..

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