Korach and Applied Skepticism

Image courtesy of chabad.org

Image courtesy of chabad.org

We just finished this past week reading about Korach’s rebellion against Moshe Rabbeinu. There is an argument about whether or not he was right in everything he said against Moshe, i.e. the Kohan Gadol status, the Techeles garment, etc. In fact, having the ground swallow him and his followers up is no proof that Moshe was right, since, after all, we don’t let miracles dictate who to follow. Otherwise we would be following another religion completely.

I can sympathize with Korach in a way. From his point of view, who was Moshe to tell him that Hashem told him through a burning bush that Moshe’s brother Aharon was to be minted Kohen Gadol? Korach was probably thinking “yeah right” as this could have been interpreted as clear nepotism/favoritism! To Korach, Moshe probably made the whole thing up as nobody else was present during the burning bush episode. In a way he was more Jewish than anything by being skeptical. If he followed suit than Judaism would be no different than any other religion out there which started out with one prophet. Granted, three million Israelite men, women and children heard Hashem tell them “Anochi Hashem,” “Don’t worship any other gods,” die twice and be revived twice. While that separates us from every other religion, the rest admittedly is subject to conjecture. To Korach, Moshe’s apparent favoritism was enough to disqualify him as a leader.

That’s why I think Korach had every right to be skeptical of Moshe. As the saying goes, for every two Jews there are three opinions (and for every two Rabbis there are 300 opinions). The problem I see here was in not seeing the possible consequences. With Moshe, ten clear miracles occurred in the Midbar. With Moshe, the Israelites were being watched over and protected in the best possible manner. By deposing Moshe and appointing a new leader, the ten miracles might have stopped, the leader may have become overwhelmed by controlling a travelling nation, and we would have been forced to fend for ourselves, likely dying within a week in a hot desert. Korach was right to be skeptical but should have kept it at bay while assessing the potential consequences of such a planned mutiny. He should have “lived along, let along” while things were going well. Skepticism is healthy, but applied skepticism is dangerous. Shavuah Tov!

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