“And Korach took…” (Numbers 16:1)
What did Korach take?
This week’s Torah Portion opens with a sentence that seems grammatically incorrect. It is missing the object of the sentence. “Korach” is the subject of the sentence, “took” is the verb, and the object, the thing Korach took, well that is simply missing.
So, what did Korach take?
From the rest of this story we know that Korach led 250 of the elders of Israel in a revolt against Moses and Aaron. Korach took it upon himself, to claim leadership of the Children of Israel. Korach took the position that since was of the tribe of Levi, he had the same lineage as Moses and Aaron, and the same right to lead. Korach took with him 250 leaders of the people who supported him in this revolt. Then Korach and his followers took the sacred fire pans of the tabernacle and offered up an incense offering unto God.
And God was incensed, that Korach would take all this just to elevate himself, to gain power over the Children of Israel, and to rebel against God’s chosen leaders: Moses and Aaron. So God said: “Take this,” and the earth opened up and swallowed Korach and all of his followers.
It is a strange tale which begins with a strangely missing word, but the lesson of Korach seems clear: Power and leadership are not simply there for the taking – they must be earned, and they must be shared – for the good of all the people, and in the service of the God of us all.