Parashat Korach - Numbers 16:1-18:32

The Test of Humility

If you've read this week's Torah portion, you already know that the story of Korah is a sad one. But there are many important lessons we can learn from the story of Korah. The primary, and most obvious lesson we can learn from Korah's mistake is in regard to humility. However, a deeper understanding reveals that his lack of humility stemmed from his disregard for mishchah, distinction. Let's explore this further.

Korah was a Levite of the Kohathite family, a cousin of Moses and Aaron. He wasn't just the average Israelite. He had special privileges that the average Israelite did not. Being a Kohathite, he was also responsible for transporting the most holy items in the Tabernacle: the Ark of the Covenant, the table of the showbread, the golden menorah, etc. And as a Levite he was also supported by the tithe of his Israelite brothers. He was not content, however, to enjoy the privileges of a Levite; he wanted the privileges of the priesthood also. He did not like the distinction between the priests and the Levites. Since the priesthood is determined by birth, Korach felt this was unfair, and his indignation ultimately lead him to destruction. He failed the test of humility because he failed to recognize the distinct calling of Aaron's sons. His name will be forever remembered and associated with arrogance, pride and jealousy.

We read about another person in the Scriptures, however, who passed a similar test with flying colors. Once Yeshua was approached by a Gentile woman who begged him to heal her daughter. Yeshua's response, however, was shocking. He refused ... and simply because she was a Gentile. He responded, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." A dog? Really? Is that what she was? Now imagine Korah asking Moses, "Can I please offer the incense, or light the menorah ... just once! Please?" Then imagine Moses responding, "Those things are for the priesthood, Korah! Not for a dog like you!" How do you think he would have responded? This Gentile woman's response was far superior to anything that Korah would have come up with. She replied, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." She recognized what Yeshua was saying and used it to her advantage. Rather than throwing a fit for being rated a second-class citizen, she recognized the fact that she was not Jewish and was not necessarily entitled to his attention. She then persisted with humility to make her petition and was rewarded for it.

Paul reminds us that we all play a part in God's purposes, whether Jew or Gentile, Levite or priest, apostles, prophets or teachers:

The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. (1 Corinthians 12:21-25)

We are all members of one body. When we are not happy with the fact that God has made us all different with different responsibilities, then we will never truly be content with who we are and we will not fulfill the calling He has designed specifically for us. We can choose to be like Korah and reject those differences, or we can be like the Gentile woman who recognized them and used them to her advantage. The choice is ours.