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    How did the people react? – Korach

    The death of Korah, from the 1890 Holman Bible

    Nehama Leibowitz, in her “Studies in B’midbar”, draws our attention to a fascinating problem in relation to the story of Korach and his henchmen: What was the role of the people?

    Korach after all insisted that he was acting in the public interest. Who are you, Moses and Aaron, he was complaining – “All the congregation are holy, and the Lord is among them – so why do you lord it over the congregation of the Lord?” (Num. 16:3). How far did the people go along with this mutiny? Did they put Korach up to it, or at least passively back the argument?

    One view is that Korach was only thinking of himself and his immediate supporters, his own cadre of backers, whilst Moses who loved the people so much really imagined that the whole congregation were feeling aggrieved and did his best to placate them. Nonetheless, Moses knew that not everybody had sinned with the Golden Calf. Nor did they all take part in several other rebellions against his leadership. How could he think that they were all on Korach’s side?

    Nehama Leibowitz quotes Yitzchak Arama who says in his “Akedat Yitzchak”, “The individual is part of the whole, just as the whole person is sick even when only one part of the body is affected”. If some of the people felt uneasy about their leaders, it was a problem for the whole congregation.

    Disaffection could spread. A faction-ridden congregation was harder to keep together. Moses knew he had to concern himself with everyone, not just a section.

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