Friday, June 26, 2009

Korach-Who was (were) the Instigator(s) of the Rebellion, Korach or Dasan and Aviram?

On ParshaBlog, Rabbi Josh Waxman brings up a Ralbag that seems to point out that the real instigators of the rebellion were Dasan and Aviram and not Korach. Korach was just a pawn of the Dasan and Aviram rebellion. Rabbi Josh and Garnel take issue with this and disagree with the Ralbag. That is justifiable, however, I remember learning a very interesting Midrash Tanchuma that would seem to back up the Ralbag's idea.

In Parshas Shemos (3:11-15) Moshe sees an Egyptian task master beating a Jew. He then stops the Egyptian from hurting this Jew by killing the Egyptian. The next day Moshe sees two Jews fighting and he tries to stop this fight as well. However, when he tries to stop them one of the Jews yells at him, "Will you kill me like you killed the Egyptian?" This frightens Moshe because he now thinks that the matter of the Egyptian is known and he is forced to flee the country. Hence, these Jews created a relationship with Moshe of animosity.

Who were these two Jews that were fighting that caused Moshe to flee for his life? The Midrash Tanchuma (Shemos:10) tells us that it was Dasan and Aviram.

In Parshas Beshalach we find the Jews in a dire situation. They are standing in front of the Yam Suf with the Egyptians chasing after them. This elicits the response from some Jews that they should have stayed in Egypt. These Jews revealed their lack of faith in Moshe and G-D.

Again, the Midrash Tanchuma (Shemos:10) reveals who these wicked Jews were. They were Dasan and Aviram.

In Parshas Beshalach G-D creates an amazing miracle, he causes the maan to fall out of heaven. However, Moshe gives the people some guidelines about this miracle of the maan. He tells the Jews that they should not leave the maan overnight and that no maan will fall on Shabbos. However, in verse 16:20 it says that some of the people did not listen to Moshe and left their maan overnight. Also, in verse 16:27 it says that some people from the nation went out on Shabbos to collect the maan, but did not find any. Whoever these Jews were they clearly did not listen to, or respect Moshe.

The Midrash Tanchuma (10) again tells us the identity of these rebellious Jews. They were, surprise, Dasan and Aviram.

In Parshas Shelach (Bamidbar 14:4) after the report of the spies that basically said they could not conquer the land all of the Jewish People wept. However, there were some people that insisted that they appoint their own leader and return to Egypt. This showed that these jews were in outright rebellion against Moshe.

The Midrash Tanchuma tells us that the culprits of this open rebellion were Dasan and Aviram. However, they failed in this regard because no one followed them.

The final point that the Midrash makes is that Dasan and Aviram were involved in the rebellion of Korach. What is the Midrash telling us with this final point? It seems to me that the real instigators were Dasan and Aviram and that they used Korach as their figure head that they could manipulate and control. The most compelling evidence that the Midrash believes this comes from the Midrash Tanchuma on Korach (3 or 10). It says there that Korach was instigated by his wife to rebel. If this is the case then the rebellion did not come inherent from Korach himself. However, by Dasan and Aviram, they wanted to rebel by themselves and they just needed a great person to back up their cause. This is most probably why Korach's name comes first, because he was the greatest of all the rebellious ones.

In light of this the Ralbag's idea that Korach was not the main instigator is backed up with Midrashim. As Rabbi Josh points out on ParshaBlog, in Pinchas there is mention of the Rebellion (Bamidbar 26:9-11). The verses point out that Dasan and Aviram were the ones who contended with Moshe and Aharon from the congregation of Korach. The pasuk then points out that Dasan and Aviram were swallowed by the Earth along with Korach. The Ralbag says that since Dasan and Aviram were mentioned first by being swallowed before Korach it is showing that they were more responsible for the rebellion than Korach. However, Rabbi Josh Waxman says that this idea seems flawed since the only reason they were mentioned first was because the pasukim are talking about the lineage of Reuven and Dasan and Aviram are in the tribe of Reuven. However, I would disagree with this idea because in verse 11 it mentions that Korach's children did not die. If these verses were truly only mentioning Dasan and Aviram because it was talking about the lineage of Reuven then why would the pasuk say that the sons of Korach did not die? This should have been mentioned in parshas Korach where it mentions that the entire congregation and their children died. I think that this would show that this section is sidetracked and not dealing with just the lineage of Reuven, but rather it is dealing with the outcome of the rebellion.

In truth, that is just how I feel. Rabbi Josh might be right, but based on the Midrash Tanchuma I would not write off the understanding of the Ralbag so easily. In fact, the Ralbag might have only come to this conclusion based on the Midrash Tanchuma's conclusion.

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