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| Published: June 21, 2022
Korach stages a rebellion against Moses, accusing him of a power grab. He and his entourage are swallowed up by the earth. The people protest, and a plague ensues. Of the staffs submitted by all the tribes, only Aaron‘s blossoms; proving that he is G‑d‘s chosen. The Israelites are instructed the various presents due to the priests and Levites.
First Aliyah: Korach, Moses’ first cousin, stages a rebellion against Moses and Aaron. Together with a few ringleaders, he gathers 250 men of renown and accuses Moses and Aaron of power hoarding. “The entire congregation is holy, and the L-rd is in their midst. So why do you raise yourselves above the L-rd’s assembly?” They took specific issue with the appointment of Aaron as High Priest. Moses proposes that on the following day they all participate in a test which would determine who indeed was worthy of the mantle of High Priest. Everyone would bring an incense offering to the Tabernacle, and G‑d would make known His choice for High Priest. Moses then tries to placate the rebellious group, unsuccessfully attempting to dissuade them from participating in this suicidal test.
Second Aliyah: Moses pleads with G‑d not to accept the incense offering of the rebellious group. Korach spends the night inciting the Jews against Moses, and gathers them all to the entrance of the Tabernacle to witness the grand spectacle. G‑d’s glory appears.
Third Aliyah: G‑d is angered by the Jews’ association with Korach, and wishes to destroy them. Moses and Aaron pray on the Jews’ behalf and the decree is averted. The earth opens up and swallows Korach and his family, and a heavenly fire consumes the rest of the 250 rebels. Moses instructs Aaron’s son Elazar to retrieve the frying pans which were used for the incense offering, to flatten them and plate the altar with them—a visible deterrent for any individual who ever wishes to challenge Aaron’s priesthood. The next day, the community complains that Moses and Aaron are to be blamed for the deaths of “G‑d’s people.”
Fourth Aliyah: G‑d instructs Moses and Aaron: “Separate yourselves from the community, and I will destroy them in an instant.” And indeed, a plague struck the nation, and many thousands were dying. Moses tells Aaron to quickly take a firepan with incense and go into the midst of the congregation and atone for their sin. Aaron does so. He stands “between the living and the dead,” and the plague is halted.
Fifth Aliyah: This section describes the “test of the staffs.” G‑d tells Moses to take a staff from each of the twelve tribes, with the name of each tribe’s prince written upon their staff. Another staff was taken to represent the tribe of Levi, and Aaron’s name was written on that staff. These staffs were placed overnight in the Holy of Holies chamber of the Tabernacle. Next morning they were removed, and miraculously Aaron’s staff had budded with almond blossoms and almonds. This was further proof that Aaron was G‑d’s choice for High Priest.
Sixth Aliyah: G‑d commands Moses to return “Aaron’s staff” to the Holy of Holies, where it is to remain for perpetuity. The Jews express to Moses their fear of mistakenly entering a restricted area of the Tabernacle, and dying as a result. In response, G‑d commands the priests and the Levites to carefully guard the Tabernacle, to prevent unauthorized entry by non-priests. The Torah then lists the various gifts to which the priests were entitled. These include the privilege of eating certain sacrifices, as well as select portions of other sacrifices; receiving the five shekels for the redemption of Israelite firstborn sons; a portion of all grain, oil, and wine crops; the “first fruit”; and more. Aaron is informed that his descendents will not receive a portion in the land of Israel—instead, G‑d is their inheritance and portion.
Seventh Aliyah: The Levites, too, will not receive a share of the land of Israel. Instead they are entitled to a tenth of all the Israelites’ crops—this in return for the Tabernacle and Temple services which they render. Upon receiving this tithe, the Levites must, in turn, separate a tenth of this tithe and give it to the priests.