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Korach (Numbers 16:1-18:32)

A cursory reading of Parashat Korach suggests that the main topic of this portion is insurrection. Not only does Korach, Datan, and Aviram rise up against Moses and Aaron, but when the LORD punishes the rebels it seems that the entire Israelite nation decides to turn against them in response. They say, “You have killed the people of the LORD!” (Numbers 17:6 [16:41]). They blame Moses and Aaron for the LORD’s punishment against Korach. This indignation against Moses and Aaron incites the wrath of God against the Children of Israel and a plague breaks out among them. However, Moses and Aaron don’t take pleasure in the punishment of the wicked. Their compassion for the flock under their care drove them to make intercession on behalf of the Israelites. Moses told Aaron:

Take your censer, and put fire on it from off the altar and lay incense on it and carry it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them, for wrath has gone out from the LORD; the plague has begun.” So Aaron took it as Moses said and ran into the midst of the assembly. And behold, the plague had already begun among the people. And he put on the incense and made atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was stopped. (Numbers 17:11–13 [16:46–48])

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