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   by Jacob Solomon

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1. What case did Korach make for himself to rebel against Moses' authority, according to Rashi?

2. How could Korach have agreed to enter the Holy of Holies with the holy frankincense knowing that Nadav and Avihu, Aaron's sons, had met their deaths through the same action, according to Rashi?

3. When Moses successfully pleaded to G-d to spare the 'evil congregation' (16:21), he addressed the Almighty as O G-d! The G-d of the spirits of all flesh'. Why did he address G-d in that way on that occasion according to (a) Rashi and (b) the Ramban?

4. What was the new 'creation' that Moses sought that G-d would bring into action against Korach, according to the Ramban, and why did it take that form?

5. Following the deaths of those who entered the Tabernacle, the Israelites accused Moses and Aaron of having 'killed the people of G-d' (17:6). Why did the people perceive that was the case, according to the Ramban?

6. What additional point, according to the Ramban, was the lesson of the blossoming of Aaron's staff meant to make to the Israelites?

7. What are the three types of firstborn that are decreed by the Torah as gifts to the Priests?


1. Korach believed that he should head the sub-tribe of Kehat within the Levites, instead of Elitzafan ben Uziel (3:30). Both were descendants of Kehat, but Korah's branch of the family was from Kehat's older son, Yitzhar. In contrast, Elitzafan's branch was from Kehat's younger son, Uziel. Thus it appeared that Korach had a greater claim than Elitzafan, and he indeed felt most aggrieved. However, natural succession could not stand in the way of G-d's choice of Elitzfan, as He communicated to Moses. (ibid).

2. Rashi quotes a Midrash that Korach had the vision of his descendants performing holy duties in the Temple. He believed that he would survive. However Korach did not know that his sons would repent at the last moment and thus not be punished with the father. (Tanhuma to Korach: 5)

3. According to Rashi, Moses plea was that G-d, unlike a mortal king, knew those who at heart were guilty, and those who were innocent, within the rebellion of Korah. He pleaded with G-d to use His special powers - of understanding the 'spirits of all flesh' - so as not to punish the innocent with the guilty. The Ramban holds that Moses accused Korach of being the guilty person who misled and deceived the people. His way of seeking mercy for the people was by seeking to place the blame on the one who caused them to sin in the first place.

4. According to the Ramban, the new 'creation' was not a mere earthquake, but that the earth uniquely just opened up and swallowed the rebels without leaving any trace. That was to show the Hand of G-d in the event: had it been a mere earthquake it would have not had the same impact, as people might have argued that it was a coincidence.

5. Moses and Aaron were declared Israelites as having 'killed the people of G-d' (17:6) for the following reason, according to the Ramban. They argued that the two hundred and fifty men could have been taught that the Priesthood was not their property by non-lethal means, rather than through the frankincense.

6. Following the Ramban, the lesson of the blossoming of Aaron's staff was meant to make the following additional point to the Israelite. The experience with Korach had already convinced them that Aaron was the High Priest, but they felt that the firstborn should assume the functions of the Levites, so that all the tribes could have a share in the Divine service. Therefore the test emphasized that Aaron had been chosen as head of a family distinct from the tribe of Levi, and he was representative of the entire tribe, and that the Levites had been exclusively chosen by G-d to displace the firstborn as His servants.

7. The three types of firstborn decreed by the Torah as gifts to the Priests are (a) firstborn of permitted animals, such as sheep and goats, which are sacred from birth (b) firstborn sons of the Israelites, which are redeemed for five shekels and (c) the firstborn male donkeys that re redeemed for a sheep, which then becomes the property of the Priest. (18:15)


Why, according to the Midrash, did Moses initially fall onto his face (16:4 - see Tanhuma 4 to Parashat Korach) out of despair and not in prayer? Why did he not, instead, pray for Korach's rebellion to fail?

My attempts to answer the above may be found on the Shema Yisrael website under Korach 5762

Other Parashiot from previous years may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site:

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Also by Jacob Solomon:
Between the Fish and the Soup

From the Prophets on the Haftara


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