Death and the Response

Chukat This week’s sedra describes some of the events of the fortieth and final year of the Israelites’ journeying through the desert. These events include the deaths of Miriam and Aharon, and Moses’s error in (according to our principal rabbinic commentator, Rashi) hitting the rock to provide water instead of speaking to it as God had instructed. For this he was punished by being denied permission to enter Israel. Nevertheless, the initial phase of the conquest of the land of Israel takes place, with victory over the kings of the lands on the East of the Jordan (the modern-day Golan Heights and parts of Jordan). But perhaps the most striking section of Chukat is the opening chapter which gi

Korach: The hypocrisy of the challengers

Rashi explains that there were many ideological strands to Korach’s rebellion against Moses’s leadership. One was a cry of egalitarianism - “All the congregation are entirely holy (Rashi: all heard directly from God at Mount Sinai) and why do you make yourself ruler over the assembly”. Yet other causes of Korach’s dissent were far less populist. He was affronted by his exclusion from the hierarchy that Moses had appointed over the Levites, claiming that he had a better claim to the princeship of the sub-tribe than his cousin who had been given the role; he believed that the Levites should have the same roles as the Cohanim in the Tabernacle; and he was joined by Reubinites, seeking to restor