This weeks Torah portion, Korach, is an “Anti-Semite’s Delight. ” They cite it as proof that the God of the Torah and the Hebrew Bible is a vengeful, angry Deity who opens the earth to swallow those who challenge the authority of Moses.
Was God really so angry?
Although it seems that the Torah portion says so, this story is really not about Moses. It is about the authority of Aaron and the hereditary priestly class who had taken control of life in ancient Hebrew society. It is they who wished to silence dissent.
By the time the Torah comes to us in its present form (in the middle of the fifth pre-Christian century) Moses is a revered historical figure, whose like we shall never see again. But he is just that, history.
The Aaronides (hereditary descendants of Aaron) were in charge then and what better way to put the divine imprimatur on their authority than the story of Korach and his followers. The Eternal One opens the earth to swallow them up as a message to any who would challenge priestly rule.
But how does this Torah portion speak to our lives today?
The story of Korach is a wonderful warning against self-aggrandizement. It reminds us to ask ourselves before we protest against those in authority. Do we really have a legitimate grievance or—after others have done all the work—do we just want to bring glory and attention to ourselves?
The God that I worship welcomes honest dissent and disagreement as we seek to make the world a better place! Peaceful dissent and the ring of honest disagreements are always in society’s best interest.
It is unfortunate that the ancient priests have given those with disdain for Judaism biblical warrant to assail the true nature of The Eternal One.