The rebellion of Korach that dominates this parsha was the most devastating challenge to Moses’ leadership. As Nahmanides points out, it could only have happened after the sin of the spies and the subsequent condemnation of the generation who left Egypt, told that they would not live to enter the land. Building on their unrest and shattered hopes, Korach assembled a heterogeneous group of malcontents – some from his own tribe, some from that of Reuben, yet others who had leadership positions elsewhere – and challenged the leadership of Moses and Aaron.

The rebellion failed – ended by the ground opening and swallowing the chief rebels – yet the complaints of the people continued. They ended only when Aaron’s rod, alone among the rods for each tribe, budded, blossomed, and brought forth almonds, a paradigm of peaceful conflict resolution. The parsha ends with a legal section detailing the duties of the priests and Levites and the offerings to be given to them by the rest of the people.

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