25.06.2011 23.Siwan, 5771 Korach
"Speak unto Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, that he take up the fire-pans out of the burning … for they are to become holy."
In this week’s Torah portion, the situation in the desert goes from bad to worse, from the refusal of the Israelites to conquer Israel (arising from the sin of the scouts) to an actual mutiny against Moses. Why would so many Israelites ignore the many miracles of the Exodus and display such ingratitude to their leader? After all, Moses took an enslaved people and – at enormous personal sacrifice – forged them into a God-enthused, sensitive, responsible and independent nation.
To deepen our inquiry, it would appear that there were two rebellions, and two different causes at that.
The key to understanding what really caused the desert mutinies rests in an insight expressed by the medieval commentator Ibn Ezra, who picks up on the fact that two different punishments were meted out to the rebels: “The earth opened its mouth and swallowed up” one group (Numbers 16:32), and “Fire came forth from the Lord and devoured the 250 bearers of incense,” in the other group (Num. 16:35)….