In our desire to provide you with the teaching of Messiah Yeshua in a Jewish context, we provide in-depth teachings of the weekly Torah portions throughout the year. Below are various perspectives from various teachers and staff members from Netivyah Bible Instruction ministry.

Joseph Shulam: Good, Bad, and Ugly Leadership [2020]

The reading this Shabbat is from the portion of the Torah called Korach (Numbers 16:1 – 18:32) and from the Prophets the reading is from 1 Samuel 11:14 – 12:22. From the New Testament we are reading Romans 13:1-7.

The portion of Korach is a top-grade lesson for good, bad, and ugly leadership. There is a divine teaching of the Holy Spirit on how leaders ought to act in times of leadership crisis. This prayer list is getting longer and longer because of the teaching part. I realize that many people around the world like the teaching part, and I have been given a request by some of the Netivyah staff to shorten the teaching part. I have promised to try and shorten it from this week on!

The Torah portion starts with these words:

“Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men; and they rose up before Moses with some of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, representatives of the congregation, men of renown.” – Numbers 16:1,2 [NKJV]

What do we learn from this opening that appears right out of the blue with this gathering? The first thing that we learn is that this is not a spontaneous affair of complaining about the old guard of the leadership.

  1. Korach the son of Kohath is a Levite from a family of Levites, just like Moses and Aaron, who are from the same tribe.
  2. Korach had to work hard to gather all the disgruntled Levites who had unfulfilled leadership aspirations, including Dathan and Abiram and the sons of Reuben. It takes organization and talking and gossiping against the established God-given leadership that had been serving the people for many years.
  3. Korach and his gang didn’t come with peaceful intentions but with rebellion in their hearts. We see this from the words, “they rose up before Moses.” In other words this was not a legitimate request for jobs, or attention, or better conditions. It was an uprising, a rebellion, a challenge for deposing Moses and Aaron, it was an attempt to take over to overcome Moses and Aaron.
  4. To get 250 leaders of the nation of Israel to come with them to challenge the leadership one would have to work mighty hard to get 250 Israelite leaders to agree on anything. This would be especially true when we are talking politics. In the last 12 months we have had three national elections and even this present supposed “unity government” that was formed by Benjamin Netanyahu and Benjamin Gantz is standing on shaky ground. So, you can imagine that Mr. Korach was working very hard for a long time to gather 250 Israeli leaders to convince them that they are going to be able to overthrow Moses. I imagine Korach had already promised positions and jobs to several of the other leaders.

Now this is how the story continues:

“They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, ‘You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?’” – Numbers 16:3 [NKJV]

Notice the claim of the Korachite gang:

  1. Moses and Aaron you are taking too much upon yourself.
    • This could sound like they are concerned for Moses and his heavy schedule and work and they want to share the burden of Moses as leader. But, this is not the case here. They are actually saying: “Moses you are not a monopoly here. We are here and we want a part of the leadership. We want democracy and equality in the leadership. You can’t do it alone!”
  2. We are all qualified and holy no less than you and your brother Aaron.
    • We are as qualified as you and Aaron! You must share the leadership with us because we are as good as you are.
    • Of course they are not taking into account that Moses didn’t want this task of taking the children of Israel out of Egypt. He didn’t chase after the job, and it was imposed upon Moses by the almighty God.
    • It was also Moses that did all the work directed by God before Egypt and Pharaoh
      and all of Egypt.
  3. There should be equality between us, and leadership ought to be shared and not
    kept for so long in the same family.

    • This argument of Korach and his gang sounds very modern. Equality, fraternity, and freedom for us to do what we want to do. This argument is very modern and the claim of equality without effort, and fraternity without debt and reciprocity and freedom without limitations is a formula for anarchy and in the end dictatorship.
  4. Moses brings a very important argument in this case, an argument that very few politicians if any can bring today. Let the Lord be the judge between me and Korach and his people. This is one of the most important lessons for leaders who are challenged and attacked by other leaders and people who claim to be sent by God or by the desire to compete with the present leadership. What develops in most cases is a competition, intrigues, false accusations, dirty war, and defamation.
    • Moses does not stoop to the level of his opposition. He does not take the low road to attack and defame Korach and the 250 men that stand with Korach. He calls upon the Lord to be the judge and his own vindication. The Lord does a good job of cleaning up the camp of the rebellious bunch.
  5. The children of Israel saw how God dealt with Nadab and Abihu the sons of Aaron and they ought to have understood and repented of their sinful behavior and of their challenging the appointment of God, Moses and Aaron. Korach and his gang of 250 men didn’t expect the divine intervention of the earth to open and swallow them all alive into the pits of Hell.
  6. As leaders and disciples of Yeshua the messiah we must not only believe in Yeshua, but also believe what He, our lord and king, instructed us to do. He instructed us to turn our cheek to our oppressors and become fishers of men. He instructed us not to return evil for evil, but to do good. Moses allowed the Lord to be the judge and the Lord is the judge not only on the judgement day of all flesh, but also now here on Earth. The Lord is the same God that we read about in the Bible. He has the same wisdom and judges the evil men as well as the righteous. He is the same God who asked Abraham to leave his father’s house, his country, his nation, and go to a place that is controversial, the land of Canaan.

I am as challenged by the leadership of Moses as I am challenged by the teaching of Yeshua our Messiah and King. My challenge is to be able to allow the Lord of all, to be not only my Savior and Atonement, but also my Rabbi / Teacher and Instructor for my daily living and preparation for eternity. I hope that you read the story of Korach and concentrate on what you can learn from Moses, the positive, the patient, the allowing your vindication to come from God and not from your own hands.

Joseph Shulam: It is not Always Good to Seek to be First [2019]

The upcoming Torah portion is Parashat Korach, from Numbers 16:1-18:32. From the Prophets the reading will be from 1 Samuel 11:14-12:22, and from the New Testament from Romans 13:1-7.

The portion of Korach deals with the rebellion of very important leading families against the leadership of Moses and Aaron. This rebellion against the leadership of God’s chosen leaders was based on three principles that are nowadays modern and even post modern.

Read what the word of God says about this rebellion:

“Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men; and they rose up before Moses with some of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, representatives of the congregation, men of renown. They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, ‘You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?’” – Numbers 16:1–4 [NKJV]

The first basis of this rebellion was the value of equality. This value was born and made “holy” during the French Revolution of 1879. Three values that are very popular today were raised during this revolution: equality, liberty, fraternity.

Of course, these are very important human rights and values. But when they are taken to the extreme and with the wrong and selfish motives, like during the French Revolution and much earlier in the Korahite rebellion, these important values can be harmful to the future of a civil and just rule of law and order.

The leaders of several important priestly families come to Moses and they demand equality. “We are just as good as you dear cousins Moses and Aaron.” “We are from the same tribe of Levi and we also serve in the Tabernacle like your family.” “We deserve equality and it is enough that you have set yourselves to be priests.”

The challenge that these Korahite leaders gave sounds just and good and right today. The value of democracy is also the value of equality before the law. The claim is clear, “all the congregation is holy” – you Moses and Aaron are not the only holy people in the tribe of Levi.

We are all holy and therefore we deserve equal share of the total leadership. You can’t be the only ultimate leaders. “We want democracy,” they shouted in modern political language.

The problem with democracy and equality is that they bring up in human beings two bad qualities: selfishness and jealousy. Under a normal and fair society, with good moral and godly leaders, equality is not something that you demand, it is a value that you gain and receive.

The reason that I say this is because a demanding attitude is already a sign that expresses an attitude of rebellion. What Korach and his band didn’t remember is that Moses never wanted to be a leader. This leadership of the children of Israel, while they were slaves serving in Egypt, was imposed upon Moses by the Creator Himself.

If we believe in God? If we believe that there is a loving God who created us and everything around us, we must also understand that He, our God, cares for us and provides for all all that we need. This includes the proper leadership for our place and time.

Different times require different types of leaders. In Israel during the formation of the state, a kind of short person, a type of Napoleon Bonaparte, took the leadership of the nation and established the State of Israel, David Ben-Gurion. Ben-Gurion was not an easy person to get along with. He was a very important person and without David Ben-Gurion the establishment of the State of Israel could have been delayed for decades, if not longer.

He was the right man for the right job. Moses seems much more accepting, a softer leader, because of his close relationship with God. So, in place of fighting for his own rights and leadership – Moses says: “Tomorrow morning the Lord will show who is His and who is holy.”

In other words, the Lord will show you sons of Korach, and the rest of the leadership of Israel, who is holy and whom the Lord has appointed and chosen to be the priestly leaders of the children of Israel.

The result of this rebellion was horrible:

“Now it came to pass, as he finished speaking all these words, that the ground split apart under them, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all their goods. So they and all those with them went down alive into the pit; the earth closed over them, and they perished from among the assembly. Then all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, ‘Lest the earth swallow us up also!’ And a fire came out from the Lord and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering incense.” – Numbers 16:31–35 [NKJV]

What killed the Korahites and their rebellion? It was first and foremost selfishness. After the selfishness came their desire for power to rule. The thirst to dominate and be recognized as equal to Moses and to Aaron.

But, maybe the worst ingredient of this bloody story is that this jealousy from someone whom God has chosen to lead, and whom He equipped with the abilities and tools to lead His people, was so disproportionate and out of place. These people from the tribe of Levi had a very important task, as Moses said to them:

“Hear now, you sons of Levi: Is it a small thing to you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do the work of the tabernacle of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation to serve them; and that He has brought you near to Himself, you and all your brethren, the sons of Levi, with you? And are you seeking the priesthood also?” – Numbers 16:8-10 [NKJV]

These sons of the tribe of Levi had a very honorable position. God had taken them and separated them from the rest of the congregation of Israel to be His servants to be close to Him, but they were unhappy with just being God’s servants. They wanted the priesthood.

They wanted equality with Moses and Aaron. Their motives were not to serve God but to be equal to Moses and Aaron and receive the same rights and privileges that Moses and Aaron had. That is, to be honored not as Levites, but as priests of God Almighty.

It is precisely this kind of search for equality that is bringing down democracies around the whole world. It is this hunger to rule and to dominate, without having earned that right by service, self-sacrifice, and dedication to the cause. We must understand that it is not always healthy or helpful to have the ambition and desire to be first.

healthy ambition

Seeking equality without seeing justice and honor as prime mitigators of our selfish desires and appetites to rule and dominate is the main downfall of great empires. The greatness of Moses is seen in the parasha reading in that in spite of Moses’ anger and desire to demonstrate his authority to all of Israel, and especially to the Korahites, Moses interceded for these rebellious sons of Korach when God was angry:

“And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, ‘Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.’ Then they fell on their faces, and said, ‘O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and You be angry with all the congregation?’” – Numbers 16:20–23 [NKJV]

Moses gives God the same argument that Abraham gave God in the discussion of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham argued with God, and God was willing to argue with Abraham. God was willing to stop the punishment of Sodom if they had even 10 righteous men.

However, when we see God in action exercising His right to do justice and restore righteousness even against His chosen and elected nation, we understand that the Lord, God of Israel, is truly no respecter of persons. And everyone, from the highest to the lowest, will receive his just reward or just punishment, in the right day and in the right hour.

As human beings we all want what the French Revolution was fighting for. We all want equality, liberty, and fraternity. However, with these very important and high values there has to come other values that will help us control and put in place the checks and balances to keep our liberty, without taking the liberty of our neighbors and fellow humans.

To work for equality, but not out a sense of “you owe me!” To seek fraternity without the abuse selfishness and self-service by the abuse of our liberty and equality, but with the desire to serve the whole community with that same equality and liberty for all.

We like to quote that God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. We forget that what is also spoken of this same God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob:

“For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.” – Romans 11:21 [NKJV]

“For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly;” – 2 Peter 2:4,5 [NKJV]

“For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him…” – Hebrews 2:2,3 [NKJV]

This aspect of God is not so popular today in Christian circles. But we must not forget that God is also called a consuming fire. And in the case of Korach and his band, this aspect of God is clearly demonstrated. So, I just want to again remind myself and you too that, “we can’t escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which first began to be spoken by the Lord, and confirmed to us by those who heard Him…” (In the Old Testament and are for us as examples.)

Joseph Shulam: The Problem With Democracy [2018]

This week’s reading in the Torah is Parashat Korach, about Korach and his band rebelling against Moses and Aaron. This event in the wilderness actually created a trauma in the history of Israel that has not been totally healed until today.

What was the issue that caused this rebellion? The main issue is stated in the following text:

“They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, ‘You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?’” – Numbers 16:3 [NKJV]

What is this claim of Korach and his group of 250 leaders in Israel? The claim is the classic claim of democracy. “We are all equal,” “we all have the same privileges,” “we are all holy.” If this premise is true as the premise of today’s democracy, there is no room for divinely-chosen and appointed and anointed leadership like Moses, or even like Christ Himself, or the apostles or the prophets.

Korach would be right – Moses and Aaron don’t have the privilege of being the only leaders and the only ones who have access to the ear and the desires of God. Everyone should be eligible to lead the people of Israel in the wilderness, and decisions ought to be made by a democratic vote and not by divine revelation.

The root of this rebellion is already in chapter 12 of Numbers, when Miriam and Aaron made the same claim to Moses their brother. The root for the criticism of Miriam and Aaron was from chapter 11, when two men, Eldad and Medad, prophesied outside the Tabernacle, and Moses said, “I wish that all of Israel would prophecy.” Moses said this in good faith and in wishful thinking, anticipating the pouring out of the Spirit of God on all flesh, like Joel the prophet promised many years later.

My point is simple. There is equality between all men, and all men and women are created equal under the authority and direction of the Creator Himself. However, there are fathers and there are sons. The son has to be respectful and honor his father and his mother. There are husbands and there are wives. They are equal, but the wife has to be submitted to her husband.

There are leaders and there are followers. The followers have to respect, hear, and follow the leaders. This is the order of the universe that God created. The leaders must not abuse their followers, because they are ordained to lead their flock to safe haven and to good pastures. The leaders are to protect their followers even at the price of their own lives.

In the Israeli Defence Forces, the number of officers that die in battle is as high, and sometimes higher, than the number of unlisted men, because the motto of the IDF is “Follow Me.” What we see in Korach and his band of rebellious followers is a breakdown of the order ordained by God. The breakdown started with Miriam and Aaron, and was followed by the 250 elite leaders of the tribes of Israel.

The price was not exacted by Moses and Aaron. That would make them bad leaders, selfish leaders, insecure leaders. They left the outcome in the hands of the One that appointed them, the Lord Himself. He gave Korach and his band of rebellion the full force of His law. The earth swallowed Korach and his followers, with their tents and all of their belongings.

Democracy is the best form of government only when it is curbed by respect and appreciation for the authority, and when the authority is based on God’s principles and values. When these two things pass from the world, democracy loses its authority, and the values change from God’s values to the values of the lowest common denominator. That means human passions, selfishness, and competition on issues where no competition is possible, because God has set the rules and standards.

At that point, democracy turns against itself and devours itself. Our world, Western Civilization, is almost reaching the point of democracy losing the divine right to rule in freedom. It is turning against itself, to devour itself by approving values and issues that are expressly forbidden by God and expressly negate nature itself.

This is an issue to pray for, my dear brothers and sisters. Christianity as we know it: the division, the competition, the neglect of God’s law, and the racism that still exists even among Christians.

Joseph Shulam: A Problem Every Leader Must Face [2017]

The reading of this week is a double portion of Korach (Numbers 16:1-18:32). Korach is the ultimate lesson in leadership in time of crisis.

I suppose that in the lifetime of every leader there are moments that could be suggestive of the situation of Moses and his cousins, the family of Korach.

We have already seen in Numbers 12 the rebellion of Aaron and Miriam, the older brother and older sister of Moses, who have been his firsthand personal supporters and partners in the leadership of Israel out of Egyptian slavery into freedom. Miriam criticized Moses and spoke against him, and the result was immediately infected with leprosy. Moses her brother prayed for Miriam’s healing from leprosy, and she was healed.

It seems like the people of the tribe of Levi did not learn from Miriam’s experience, and they came to Moses together with a few dubious characters of whom we have heard before, Dathan and Abiram (the sons of Eliab), and On (the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben). Korach and his family are from the tribe of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram are from the tribe of Reuben. What do these people from different tribes have in common, and why would they want to cooperate in this rebellious action against God’s anointed ones, Moses and Aaron? What is their claim against Moses and Aaron?

  1. Numbers 16:3, “You take too much upon yourselves. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?”
  2. “You take too much [responsibility] upon yourselves.”
  3. “All the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them.”
    • “We are just as good as you and have the same relationship with God that you have. We can lead the people better than you can because we are united in a union, and we are more than you two.”
    • “We want democracy, equal rights. You are not special, and therefore you can’t have special privileges as leaders.”
    • They claim that any one of the 250 men of renown, leaders of their tribes, are just as good as Moses and Aaron, and that there is nothing special in the relationship of Moses and Aaron with God, that is different from what every one of the leaders of the tribes has.
    • You can see the modern humanistic values peeping through the dark veil of a rebellious spirit and hunger and greed for leadership, recognition, and wanting a piece of the action from the swamp of government.
    • Around great men of God there are always those of lesser character and greater hunger for power, motivated by feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth, like Korach, Dathan, and Abiram. They feel ignored and slighted. They feel underprivileged. “If someone has just a little more than I have, I must feel that he is obtaining the position by abuse and evil motivation.” Equality is a tool in the hands of Korach and his group to get into the places of power for motives that are less than holy.

And what is Moses’ response to this rebellion of some of his own relatives?

“So when Moses heard it, he fell on his face; and he spoke to Korah and all his company, saying, ‘Tomorrow morning the Lord will show who is His and who is holy, and will cause him to come near to Him. That one whom He chooses He will cause to come near to Him. Do this: Take censers, Korah and all your company; put fire in them and put incense in them before the Lord tomorrow, and it shall be that the man whom the Lord chooses is the holy one. You take too much upon yourselves, you sons of Levi!’” – Numbers 16:4–7 [NKJV]

  1. Moses falls on his face, out of grief and sadness.
  2. Moses does not take the action against these people by himself. He leaves the action to God. There is no leader that can really defend himself against such accusations as Korach and his group levee against a leader. Anything that he would do would only prove their claims as true.
  3. Moses leaves the matter in the hands of the Almighty Himself. Moses tells the rebellious:
    • “Please wait till tomorrow morning, the Lord will show who is His and who is holy”.
    • “The Lord will take those who are claiming to be holy.”
    • “You are Levites, take your censers (little shovels) and fill them with incense. Put fire in your censers and come before the Lord tomorrow.” This action is actually the daily normal activity of the Korahites. They, as Levites, brought the incense before the Lord.
  4. Notice that Moses turns around the same argument that the sons of Korach had against him and Aaron, “You take too much upon yourselves, you sons of Levi!”
  5. Moses did get angry, but his anger was managed well and he spoke to the Lord: “Then Moses was very angry, and said to the Lord, ‘Do not respect their offering. I have not taken one donkey from them, nor have I hurt one of them.’” – Numbers 16:15 [NKJV]
  6. The Lord heard the prayer of Moses and this is what happened next: “So every man took his censer, put fire in it, laid incense on it, and stood at the door of the tabernacle of meeting with Moses and Aaron. And Korah gathered all the congregation against them at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. Then the glory of the Lord appeared to all the congregation.”
  7. Before the Lord took action against the rebellion of the Korahite group, He warned Moses and Aaron, and the rest of Israel, to get away from the gang of the rebellious leaders: “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.”
  8. “The Lord creates a new thing, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the pit, then you will understand that these men have rejected the Lord.” – Numbers 16:18–30 [NKJV]

What can we as leaders learn from this sad occasion in the history of our people, in a period when the Lord’s presence was visible by day and by night, in a period that all of Israel enjoyed the daily miracle of manna, water from the rock, and divine victory over Amalek? That generation of the wilderness-wandering, with the daily presence of the Lord and access to His divine council, and still the lust for power, selfishness, and greed, gave birth to rebellion against God’s anointed ones.

The result was horrible. The whole 250 leaders of Israel that joined Korach and his gang were burned, and their tents, property, and families all paid the high price. Their case became a sign and an example that we all have to learn from and watch for, because such rebellions can happen and do happen even today. But the divine fire is slow to come today, because we don’t have a temple or priests or Levites who are actually serving in the presence of the Lord, like in those days in the wilderness of Sinai.

Joseph Shulam: Who Was Korach? [2016]

This week the Jewish communities in the Diaspora are reading the parasha called Korach. This reading starts in Numbers 19:1–22:1, and it tells the story of Korach and his family. First, we should see who were this Korach and his family! We need to know this in order to discern today and recognize who are the disciples of Korah who inhabit our communities today.

Korach was the son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi. Exodus 6:18 connects Korach with Hebron, Uzziel and Amram, who were his uncles on the father’s side. In Exodus 16:1, Korach’s lineage is traced back to Levi the son of Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham.

Numbers 16:1,21 traces this lineage back further to Levi, son of the patriarch Israel. In fact, Korach was from the family of Levi and was related to Aaron, the brother of Moses. This is important to understand that Korach was not one of the obscure people in the Israelite camp. This is why in Hebrew we say, “rich like Korach.” It is an equivalent to the English idiom, “rich like Midas.”

“Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men; and they rose up before Moses with some of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, representatives of the congregation, men of renown. They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, ‘You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?’” – Numbers 16:1-3 [NKJV]

What was the problem with Korach and his clan that rebelled against Moses and Aaron? Why was the punishment against Korach and all those who joined him so harsh? Where the land opened up and swallowed the whole clan and those who joined Korach alive into the pit?

  1. Korach did not come alone to complain to Moses and Aaron about their leadership style and the exclusivity of their posts, that were appointed by God Himself. They came with a whole crowd that they had mustered, organized, and prepared to turn against the leadership of Moses and Aaron.
  2. Korach and his clan did not speak as individuals with concern for their rights and privileges, but they spoke in the name of 250 leaders, man of renown, representatives of the people.
  3. They had not shown any appreciation for the years that Moses and Aaron had spent leading the people of Israel through the wilderness of Sinai, feeding the people, arbitrating for the people, interceding for the people before God, and just leading and adjudicating this great rabble for so many years in the wilderness. This lack of gratitude toward Moses and Aaron was in reality a lack of gratitude toward God Himself, who chose and appointed Moses and Aaron to their particular tasks as leaders of the Israelite people.
  4. Not accepting God’s appointed leaders is equal to not accepting God Himself. This principle is also the principle that Yeshua was teaching in the Gospel of John, when He said that if you accept Moses you also accept Yeshua, and if you don’t accept Yeshua you don’t really accept Moses. This principle is a key component in our faith in Yeshua, Moses, and the prophets.
  5. The claims of “democracy” that Korach is claiming sounds like this: “for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” Let us look at this claim after I translate it for you into modern English:
    • We are all equal and we all have the same rights!
    • Religion is all equal, and God is in every one of the religions equally valid.
    • There is no one above the other, and you, Moses and Aaron, don’t have a right to rule over us in the congress, and in the Senate, and even in the White House, we should have someone from our own class.

Here are some eye-openers that we should all take into consideration:

  1. Moses did not want to be a leader of the people of Israel. God almost forced him to take the leadership and go down to Egypt to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelite slaves go. He was God-chosen, God-prepared, and God-appointed. The same is also true for Aaron his brother.
  2. It is not true that everyone is equal. It is true that everyone is created equal by God, and as long as people are living according to God’s rules, true equality will prevail and all will have the rights and the privileges that will guarantee them the right to be happiness. Happiness and joy are not something that anyone can take away from his neighbor, nor are they qualities that anyone can give to his neighbor. We can make it easier or more difficult for each other to be happy and joyful, but no much more than that.
  3. Democracy is a wonderful system of government, but it is not a divine God-given system.
    • The first democracy was in Athens, Greece, and it did not last very long. Most of the world has never had true democracy, where every citizen is equal in all the rights and privileges to his neighbor.
    • In most countries where there is a claim of democracy and equality between the citizens, this equality is partial and never full, because people are born with different capabilities and talents.
    • Education, wealth, color of the skin, height, weight, color of the hair, job, and beauty, all play a role in the actual privileges and true rights that human beings experience in this world.
    • God showed in no uncertain terms that Moses and Aaron are going to remain the leaders whom He appointed and anointed for the task. Korach and all his “gang” were swallowed alive into the earth that opened up its mouth.
    • It might seem harsh on God’s part to react so strongly to this claim of Korach and his band of 250 elite members of the Israeli society in the wilderness of Sinai. But, it ought to be a clear and present danger to all who in the name of total equality are devouring the very branch that they are sitting on. It should be a lesson to all who are elevating any political system to be equal to God’s plan of salvation for all mankind, which is really the only total equality for all mankind. The equalizing factor that is unique and works is the blood of the Lamb that was shed for our transgressions, and delivered us from darkness into the divine light that came from Sinai to Calvary.

Joseph Shulam: True Leaders are Appointed by God [2015]

This week the parasha (Torah portion) is Korach. Who was Korach? He is best remembered as Korach who carried a rebellion against Aaron and Moses.

Korach was from the tribe of Levi. Korach the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi. Therefore Korach was a cousin of Moses and Aaron. This is actually something that I did not know before today. It makes the whole story of Korach’s rebellion even more interesting for me. Here is a member of the family of Moses and Aaron, a son of the same tribe. The tribe of Levi was appointed by God to take care of the tabernacle, the worship, and the whole sacrificial system for all of Israel. It was a tribe of people who were in the elite of Israel’s spiritual ladder.

What was Korach’s problem with Moses and Aaron? Why did Korach lead a rebellion against the anointed of God? These questions are important not only for understanding the past, but also for understanding the present and the future of governing bodies, both in the spiritual houses of this world, and also in the political homes that govern our world.

Moses and Aaron were leaders appointed and anointed by God. Moses was called by God and appointed to save the children of Israel out of Egypt’s slavery, and lead them to the land of Canaan.

“Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men; and they rose up before Moses with some of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, representatives of the congregation, men of renown. They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, ‘You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?’” – Numbers 16:1-3 [NKJV]

What I read in this text is the following:

  1. Korach speaks like he wants democracy and not the oligarchy of Moses and Aaron. Korach’s arguments were very modern, and they sound like some politician speaking today in the Parliament or in the Congress.
  2. Korach first gathers a crowd of 250 people from the elite of Israel’s camp. He gathered Dathan and Abiram, two leaders from the tribe of Reuben, the firstborn of Jacob, to stand by his side.
  3. Korach and his band came to Moses and Aaron and claimed: “We are all holy people and the Lord is with us all. We should all be leaders and participate in the decision-making process. Don’t be dictators and take all the authority to yourselves. We need democracy and equality, this is the right thing to do now and you should not take so much upon yourselves. We can help you and take some of the burden of leadership off of your shoulders.”
  4. “You, Moses and Aaron, actually exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord. You don’t share the leadership with us, even though we are all just as intelligent, smart, and capable as you are.”

Aaron and Moses’ reaction is so very democratic and fair. In short, Moses told the decanting crowd, “let the Lord prove whom he has chosen to lead this nation.” At that, point Dathan and Abiram rebelled not only against Aaron and Moses, but also against God’s promises:

“So when Moses heard it, he fell on his face; and he spoke to Korah and all his company, saying, ‘Tomorrow morning the Lord will show who is His and who is holy, and will cause him to come near to Him [the same word for sacrifice – “korban”]. That one whom He chooses He will cause to come near to Him… You take too much upon yourselves, you sons of Levi!’ Then Moses said to Korah, ‘Hear now, you sons of Levi:  Is it a small thing to you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do the work of the tabernacle of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation to serve them…? And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, but they said, “We will not come up! Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that you should keep acting like a prince over us? Moreover you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up!”’” – Numbers 16:4-14 [NKJV]

The ungrateful attitude of Dathan and Abiram, twisting the blessings of the Lord and turning them upside down by saying that Egypt is the land of milk and honey, and accusing Moses and the Lord that they brought the children of Israel out of Egypt to kill them in the wilderness, is what in my opinion brought the terrible death and execution of this whole rebellious band of people.

You see, dear brothers and sisters, when a nation is about to enter into the “promised land” into the presence of the Lord, the leadership can not be in rebellion and in discord. The modern and post-modern attitudes of our day are not so new. The idea that all people are eligible, able, and equal, and that democracy is the only valued and effective way to lead is not true, and in fact it was never true.

There is no democracy that has ever existed in the history of mankind more than 400 years; even ancient Athens, where democracy was invented, did not last 400 years. The humanistic arguments that all are equal and all should have the same abilities, and therefore the same job, and therefore all should be leaders and have an inherent equality, are not exactly a biblical concept. This is true in the story of Moses and Aaron and the Korahite rebellion, and God showed how angry and grieved He was with Korach and his band of rebels by opening up the ground and swallowing the whole lot of them and their families into the ground.

The church, and all of Israel, need to know that leaders are not made in a cookie factory, and there is no college or university, Christian or Jewish, that produces leaders anointed by God to lead His people. Leaders are the men and women who are touched with the fire of the burning bush that burns and does not consume. The leaders of God’s choice have a burning in their hearts, and are open and seek God’s guidance by day and by night, in sunshine and in storm clouds. The best of these leaders often don’t want to lead and don’t seek fame and acclaim.

Please pray for the next generation of leaders in Israel and in the Body of the Messiah worldwide. We need leaders who are not office holders, but heroes of truth and compassion, and who love God and men enough to take the blows of all the Korahites and allow God to make the response and fight our battles like we fight His battle.

Yehuda Bachana: A Call to Sacrifice for the People of Israel [2018]

Read the teaching below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.

This Shabbat we learn about Parashat Korach (Korah). Who exactly was Korach? He was a prominent figure from the tribe of Levi; one of the leaders of the people of Israel. In addition, he challenged Moses regarding his leadership and Aaron’s election to priesthood.

Our weekly Torah portion describes a very severe rebellion by Korach and 250 of his men, against Moses and Aaron. Korach and his men actually accused Moses and Aaron of appointing themselves to their positions:

“…And now you also want to lord it over us!” – Numbers 16:13b [NIV]

They also claimed that Moses and Aaron used their status for personal pleasure:

“…Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?” – Numbers 16:3b [NIV]

Korach’s argument was that all people were equal; we are all holy and we are all the same. This word, equality, is more relevant today than ever, today we are all fighting for equality.

Are We All Created Equal?

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Korach’s rebellion created an opportunity for Aaron to lay down his life for his people.

Our social life starts at kindergarten where everyone is considered equal. We all sing the same songs and play the same games. At my daughter’s kindergarten, they had a sport’s day. There were no winners, however, everyone received a medal, everyone gets first place.

Life moves on to first grade where we are crammed into a square classroom for 12 years, where our only common denominator is our date of birth. Our interests, our talents, and even our personalities are squeezed into a cookie-cutter pattern. The children wear the same uniform, there is no way to stand out. At some point, we became convinced that we were all equal.

As the Haggadah says, we all came out of Egypt. We crossed the sea together, together we stood facing Mount Sinai, we accepted the Torah together, we are all equally responsible for the Torah – but can we ignore the fact that Moses is the greatest prophet? The concluding verses of the Torah are:

“Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.” – Deuteronomy 34:10-12 [NIV]

(And then we say the words “chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek” to conclude the Torah.)  

The Need for Inequality

Moses is the greatest of the prophets. But what about Yeshua? Yeshua is not only a prophet, He is much more than that. Yeshua is the embodiment of salvation, he is the Messiah. He is the subject of all the prophecies of Moses, and all other prophets. All the prophets prophesied about Yeshua.

Returning to Moses, can we or should we sacrifice the uniqueness of Moses, or of any one of us, on the altar of equality?

Within the family, you can find everything except for equality. Inequality between parents and children, between the first born and the last born, between the genders and various ages. Everyone has a unique place, role, and rights.

We wouldn’t have made it anywhere if we were all created equal. This is because we all need each other, because we have differences in talents and abilities. The architect needs an engineer, who needs a contractor, who needs an electrician and a plumber, who needs a builder, who needs a carpenter, and everyone needs a customer.

A Good Leader Knows How to Utilize Talent

A good leader knows how to derive from each person a different skill. He also knows how to place each person in the optimal position for that particular individual’s talent and ability. When a person is in the right environment, which allows a person to express his talents, this is called success and everyone benefits.

Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and one of the richest and most influential people in the world, explains 11 important and practical points for life. One of these points is that human beings are not equal. No matter how much the world tries to make us think we are equal, men, women, or otherwise, this is simply not true.

God has entrusted us all with different gifts, and in varying quantities. I like to call these gifts “talents” or “abilities.” Each of us has a different ability that also comes in different quantity.

God has Given Us a Varying Amount of Talents

We have all received a different amount of talents from above. One might have received twenty, another received ten, five, or even three.

In the parable of the talents, which appears in Matthew 25:14, A rich man went on a journey and deposited his fortune with his three servants. Each of them received a different amount and the freedom to do with the portion he received as best he could. When he returned, he discovered that two of his servants were responsible and loyal.

They actively invested the capital, they tried to the best of their ability to generate profit with what was given to them. What are those profits? The parable teaches us that in every man the profit is different, but the principle is similar, and it is to build each other and the Kingdom of Heaven. These servants thought to themselves: “I know what is required of me and I want to achieve these goals.”

But the third servant chose the passive route. He said to his employer:

“…I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground…” – Matthew 25:24b,25a [NIV]

He’s saying, “I didn’t do anything with it. I’m returning the deposit.”

The third servant can be seen as a servant who has not utilized his talent and his ability. He buried it in the ground and returned it to his master.

Why We Should Use Our Talents for Good

We too, will have to account for the way in which we have used everything entrusted to us.

If we are found to be unfaithful, even what we have will be taken from us and given to others, to those who are faithful, just like what happened to Korach. Once again, Korach was not just a common man, he was of a high standing, but once he stopped being loyal, he tried to exploit his status and wealth for harm, for rebellion, and in the end he lost what he had.

The hard part of the parable is undoubtedly the claim of the lazy slave, the one who did not do enough with what God gave him, “I knew that you are a hard man.” There are several ways to understand this part, I will try to interpret it this way:

For some reason we think that worshiping God, believing in God, and serving Him, gives us special rights as believers. Somehow we will have it better, more comfortable, and that we will have special protection.

Sometimes this really happens, but most often it does not. Occasionally it’s the other way around, we actually suffer more because of our love and worship of God, because of our service.

Bad Things Can Still Happen to God’s Servants

Let’s start from this basic fact: God created us and we are His. He can do as He pleases. The fact that we serve Him is because we must. Not because there is a reward, but because it is our duty. If we do not fulfill this duty, we will be thrown into the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth, into darkness. The fact that God sometimes grants the faithful a reward is a bonus.

Sometimes we have the idea in mind, deeply rooted both in Judaism and in Christianity, that God’s servants are not harmed.

During my military service in the Second Lebanon War in 2006, one of the greatest rabbis of Northern Israel hosted our unit and cared for us until we went into Lebanon.

But what is interesting is that he gave everyone a half-shekel coin, which we were obligated to give to charity after we return from the war.

What did he mean by this? That we are servants of God being sent out, and therefore no evil will come to us, that God’s servants are not harmed. This is a nice idea, but it’s not Biblical nor is it realistic.

It’s the same with our way of thinking. We think that we can manipulate God. If I give up $200 of my salary, I will lack nothing. God will take care of my expenses. Really?

The Bible is full of bad things that happened to good people, prophets, priests, and leaders.

One of the great prophets, Elijah, who ascended into heaven, is the same prophet who suffered greatly here on this earth. Half of the time he was running away from King Ahab, who wanted to kill him. If you think he had fun running away, he definitely didn’t! Elijah begged God, who was not good to him, to kill him out of mercy (1 Kings 19:4).

Why am I telling you this? There is a verse in our parasha, which is significantly underappreciated. We truly do not understand the depth of sacrifice that is embodied in this verse:

“So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped.” – Numbers 16:47,48 [NIV]

The Importance of Self-Sacrifice

We read this verse in passing, but the same Aaron, whose two sons died, punished with fire from above, ran into the inferno, into the punishment of God. He ran and stood between the living and the dead.

If for a moment we think that Aaron was exempt, and that he would not be hurt, we are incorrect. Aaron took an unusual risk. Most people would escape from the fire and flee when bad things happen, terror attacks and the like. The norm is that people do not run into danger.

However, here we see the essence of the heavy price of leadership, which puts the people before the leader, who loves the people – even if they sinned, and the leader is willing to endanger himself for the sake of the community.

There is something to learn from this act. We are a part of this people, it is our duty to sacrifice, even if we might get hurt.

We are required to sacrifice in army service. We are required to sacrifice a great deal as parents and as believers in the community.

Here I want to conclude with a story from the Gemara, a dilemma about a jug of water:

“If two people were walking on a desolate path and there was a jug [kiton] of water in the possession of one of them, and the situation was such that if both drink from the jug, both will die, as there is not enough water, but if only one of them drinks, he will reach a settled area, there is a dispute as to the halakha.

Ben Petora taught: It is preferable that both of them drink and die, and let neither one of them see the death of the other. This was the accepted opinion until Rabbi Akiva came and taught that the verse states: ‘And your brother shall live with you,’ indicating that your life takes precedence over the life of the other.” – Bava Metzia 62a

There have been many commentaries on this story. In other words, why does Ben Petora claim one thing, and why does Rabbi Akiva say another?

There is a third alternative, which was not discussed: it is possible that the owner of the jug will be permitted, or even asked, to hand over the entire jug to his friend and die.

The third interpretation is the idea of ​​self-sacrifice, we as Messianic Jews can and must add to the Israeli-Jewish discourse. The Apostle Paul explains to us the idea of ​​self-sacrifice:

“I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.” – Romans 9:1-4 [NIV]

God forbid we were to take this verse at face value. I see the spirit of sacrifice of the Apostle Paul, like Aaron’s, who ran into the fire, and with his body and his courage, stopped the plague.

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A day will come when we, as believers, will be called to the flag and there will be those who run into the inferno in self-sacrifice for the sake of the (physical) people of Israel. We can only do so with the help of Yeshua the Messiah who lives in us.

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