If you like stories about political rebellion and massive death, then Parshah Korach is right up your alley.
In this week’s parshah, Korach decides that Moses needs to be overthrown. In his mind, Moses has too much authority and sits on his high horse, talking to G-d, and looking down on everyone else.
So he challenges Moses’ authority. He gathers a bunch of guys, and they confront Moses. So Moses calls him out on it! Moses and Korach go to the Tent of Meeting with fire pans of incense and sure enough, G-d sides with Moses. Korach and his dudes get swallowed up by the earth and the rest die in a massive plague.
Basically, you don’t mess with G-d.
A lot of people read this Torah portion as a way of promoting fundamentalism. “See, if you rebel against G-d, you’ll be punished! So burn your Urban Outfitters shirts and step away from the indie rock, because you need to sit all day reading Gemara or G-d will punish you all the days of your life.”
That’s a lie. And they know it.
This story is actually about DISTRUSTING authority.
In the first part of the story, we learn that Korach comes from a powerful family. The Midrash (Jewish legends) about Korach teaches that he was wealthy, too. And if you look at the people he recruited to overthrow Moses, they weren’t anti-establishment. They were princes, men from the assembly, nobility. They were yuppie power brokers!
Korach used these two hundred and fifty men to challenge Moses, not because they wanted equality, but they wanted power for themselves. Worse than that, they managed to trick people into following them under the lie that “everyone in the congregation is holy” (Numbers 16:3).
There are people in this world: politicians, celebrities, people in power, who claim that they are looking out for the common man. But sometimes, these people aren’t really looking out for you. They are just using you.
Why did G-d side with Moses and Aaron and not Korach? Because Moses and Aaron were the real deal. Yes, they were the guys in charge. But their hearts were in the right place. They weren’t out for “number one” like Korach.
So if you’re going to challenge the system, go for it! G-d likes rebellious people. Just make sure that you aren’t being tricked by some yuppie jerk who talks a good game.