These days it has another meaning. Whatever people can demonstrate about, they demonstrate about it. There are marches, vigils and pickets, and they make maximum use of media attention to ensure that however abstruse their cause, the public hears about it.
That is what happened in the days of Korach, except that at that point in history the media had not been invented. Korach and his henchmen were taking a stand for democracy, or so they said. “All the congregation are holy,” they said to Moses and Aaron, “So why do you lord it over the congregation of the Lord?” (Num. 16:1-3).
Korach was the demagogue who coined the slogan; Datan and Aviram were the two chief followers, of the type that Rabbi Louis Rabinowitz called “the professional troublemaker… who, whenever there is a chance of making mischief or causing trouble, is to be found in the forefront. They can derive no possible benefit or advantage to themselves from their machinations except for the sadistic satisfaction of knowing that they have thrown a wrench in the works, that they have caused strife and disharmony and disturbed the peace of the community.”
Korach, Datan and Aviram were not entirely wrong in drawing attention to what they thought was bad government of the congregation. Every community has its faults and failings, and the communal leadership everywhere ought to understand that their people are entitled to criticise.
Yet, in the Korach incident, the fact is that it was God who appointed Moses and Aaron, and the critics should have questioned Him if they thought there was a problem.
But even worse than this was the fact that from none of the demonstrators did one hear a word of appreciation, encouragement or praise. You would have thought that nothing good was happening at all. There was no recognition of the good that had been done, however imperfect; of the dedication and effort of the congregational leadership, however much might have been done better; and no offer of help to put things right.
There are times when to demonstrate and criticise is cheap and churlish. This is one of them.
Modern-day communal critics, please take note.