Strength from Unity

June 23, 2023 / 4 Tammuz 5783

This week’s Torah portion is oddly (we will come back to this later) named after the mutinous rebel Korach. The reading recounts Korach’s insurrection, along with a group of “two hundred and fifty Israelites, chieftains of the community, chosen in the assembly, men of repute” (Numbers 16:2) who challenge Moses and Aaron’s leadership of the Israelite nation.

Amidst this rebellion, we witness the destructive consequences of division and the transformative power of unity. As the story unfolds, we read of a profound message that underscores the importance of unification and collaboration for the strength and well-being of a community.

The rebellion led by Korach serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of discord and selfish ambition. Korach, together with his defiant group of distinguished followers, challenges the authority of Moses and Aaron, claiming that they have taken too much power for themselves. “Why do you raise yourselves above Gd’s congregation?” (Numbers 16:3), questions Korach. And because the argument stems from a place of envy and a desire for personal gain, rather than a genuine concern for the welfare of the community, we know it is doomed to fail from the onset.

In response to the rebellion, Moses proposes a unique test, to be judged by Gd, to settle the matter. Each party is instructed to bring an offering of incense before Gd, and it is through this act that Gd will decide (Numbers 16:16-17). As the story unfolds, the ground opens up and swallows Korach and his followers, affirming Gd’s divine appointment of Moses and Aaron.

However, it is in the aftermath of this ordeal that we become privy to a crucial lesson about the strength of unity and the role each individual plays in supporting the community. In fact, it is this lesson that probably provides the explanation for naming the Torah portion in memory of Korach himself. Moses instructs Aaron to take the incense pans used by the rebels and transform them into a covering for the altar as a reminder to the Israelites (Numbers 17:2-3). This symbolic act signifies the importance of unity, illustrating that even objects associated with discord and rebellion can be transformed into symbols of harmony and cohesion.

While the rebels are no longer a threat, Moses still reflects on the events and acknowledges the need for collective responsibility and the indispensable role that each member of the community plays in upholding its strength. Korach’s rebellion highlights the destructive potential of division, envy, and personal ambition. Yet, through the act of converting the incense pans into an altar covering, we learn that even in the face of discord, unity can be restored. The responsibility of maintaining a harmonious community falls not only on the leaders but also on the active participation and dedication of every individual.

The message of Parashat Korach is timeless, reminding us of the enduring significance of unity and collaboration within our own communities. When we embrace the strength that comes from unity, we cultivate an environment where support, understanding, and collective responsibility thrive. Together, we can overcome challenges, create positive change, and nurture the well-being of all. As we learn from the Israelites’ journey, it is through unity that we discover our true potential.

May we be inspired by the lessons learned in this week’s Torah portion and strive to foster a strong and vibrant San Antonio Jewish community, where unity prevails, and the collective strength of each individual is celebrated. Because we are…



Shabbat Shalom,