If the sons of Korach had died with their father (Num. 26:11) we would never have had the group of Temple singers known as Korachites (II Chron. 20:19). Nor would we have had the Psalms of the Sons of Korach (numbers 42, 44-49, 85, 87 and 88), which occupy a major segment of the Book of Tehillim.
We know Korach as a strident speaker who disturbed the harmony of the community; his descendants were musicians who enhanced the services in the sanctuary and added to the poetry of the Jewish tradition. Their psalms are part of the Siddur; but they themselves were more than performers and composers. They were thinkers.
The first of the B’nai Korach psalms bears the heading Maskil, which literally means “instruction”. In some cases the psalms with this title are didactic, thoughtful analyses of ethical and intellectual problems, though in other such psalms the heading may denote a particular kind of musical rendition.
What the B’nai Korach taught us to do was to think about our problems. If we limit ourselves to one of their psalms, no. 49, which is traditionally read in a house of mourning, we are urged to recognise that no-one lives for ever, rich or poor, aristocrat or commoner.
Nor can we take our possessions with us. When we are alive we can boast of the estates and buildings that bear our name: when we die, the only thing over which we retain control is how we plead our case before the court On High.