Parshat Korach 5773: What Do We Learn from the 250 Who Brought Incense and Died by Heavenly Fire?

by Moshe Burt

Yehuda Nachshoni’s “Studies in the Weekly Parsha” (pages 1032-1033) on our Parsha Korach cites Ramban’s view that the cause of the rebellions: Korach, Dasan and Aviram and the First Born’s was:

The spies’ severe punishment, which brought death to the generation of the desert and plague to its princes. It [the punishment]… brought to the surface all of the accumulated bitterness of the dissatisfied, who until now had not dared to come out against Moshe. Now they took advantage… to settle accounts.

One could say the event of the Miraglim brought the opening of the proverbial “Pandora’s Box.”

A few years ago, this author cited a Parsha HaShevua by Rabbi Scott Ressler of the Jeff Seidel Student Center asked the following:

Why would 250 people follow him to their certain death, with apparently little to gain?

Parshat Korach relates the story of Korach, Datan, Aviram and 250 members of the shevet (tribe) or Reuven challenging Moshe’s choice for Kohen Gadol (high priest). The end result was that the 250 members were burned by a heavenly fire, and the other 3 were miraculously swallowed by the earth. From a motive perspective, Korach makes the most sense, because he felt slighted for not having been chosen himself. But why would 250 people follow him to their certain death, with apparently little to gain?

The answer can be found in Rashi, the great medieval commentator, who writes that just as Korach’s family camped on the southern side of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), so did the tribe of Reuven. Rashi quotes the words of Chapters of the Fathers, “woe to an evil person, and woe to his neighbor.” The 250 people met their death, simply because they were influenced by their neighbors! This points to the awesome influence that friends, neighbors and associates have on us.

This author then commented:

There seem to be wider ramifications to this Torah vort than only to us locally, individually and who our friends and neighbors are and how we are influenced by them and they by us; How we hold of them and they of us. These ramifications would seem, simultaneously, to affect us on a national level — not just in Israel but throughout the Jewish world.

So, What Do we learn from the 250 who rebelled, brought incense and died by Heavenly Fire?

To update what these wider ramifications could include, we must still consider how to respond to Bibi and his “2 states (sic)” capitulation, which has taken on more traction with the passage of time and Benyamin Netanyahu’s reelection as prime minister. We must consider as well, the entire Oslo process, Gush Katif, building freezes — both the one a couple of years ago, and the one seeming taking shape since president Obama’s March trip here. We must also consider the ramifications which could result from certain so-called “religious” political sectors now seemingly acting as “spoiled brats” (putting it mildly) threatening revenge by advocating support for give-aways of Jewish Land, because they were omitted from the governing coalition. The lessons of our parsha seem to be, that NOT EVEN attempts to “reform” IDF draft laws to make them Hareidi-inclusive justifies ANY SECTOR, religious or otherwise, rolling-over on the Land of Israel.

This author asked then, and the question still seems now:

Is it as if we all hold incense fire-pans with Bibi waiting to be burned? And for what? Kassam and Katyusha blitzes (Chas v’challila) of Ramat Beit Shemesh, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ben-Gurion Airport and planes making their approach to the airport?

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the other MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!

Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.