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    The clever critic – Korach

    The destruction of Korach, Datan & Aviram, by Gustave Dore, 1865

    One of the leading lessons of the Torah comes in this week’s reading, which is the story of Korach the rebel.

    You can quote the rabbis and say with a poetic flourish, Korach pike’ach – Korach was a clever man, and so he really was. His arguments against Moses sound so logical and watertight, and it is only when you think things out properly that you see what a danger he was.

    He used (or misused) both logic and law. He quoted democracy, saying that it was the people in whom authority rested, and Moses had imposed himself upon them (Num. 16:3).

    He tried halachah: he said (mocking the law of tzitzit) that if your whole garment was blue why should you talk about inserting a thread of blue into the corners; he said (mocking the law of mezuzah) that if a building was full of holy books why should you need a few verses in a mezuzah on the doorpost.

    The one thing he left out was God. Who was it who ordained the teachings of the Torah? Who put Moses in office? Who revealed the rules, even the exceptions?

    This was the crucial question, and this was the one which Korach deliberately failed to ask.

    The people felt Korach was their friend and champion, the person who was standing up for them, the leader who was truly on their side, but only after some convincing did they realise what he was doing.

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