Who is the Boss?

When a man regards himself as a big somebody, he becomes angry with others who do not acknowledge his ego.

A concept image of an angry and arrogant man. (Image © Bigstock)


Regular Shabbat Readings

Read / Listen to these Portions

  • Korach (קורח | Korah)
  • Torah: Numbers 16:1-18:32
  • Haftarah: 1 Samuel 11:14-12:22
  • Gospel: John 19:1-17

Regular readings above are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the current Torah Portion Schedule for all these variations, and special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Numbers 16:1 | Revolt of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram
    • Numbers 17:1 | The Budding of Aaron's Rod
    • Numbers 18:1 | Responsibility of Priests and Levites
    • Numbers 18:8 | The Priests' Portion
  • Prophets
    • 1Sa 11:1 | Saul Defeats the Ammonites
    • 1Sa 12:1 | Samuel's Farewell Address

Portion Summary

Korah (korach, קורח) was the name of a prominent Levite. It is also the name of the thirty-eighth reading from the Torah. It comes from the first verse of this week's reading, which says, "Now Korah the son of Izhar... took action" (Numbers 16:1). This week's Torah reading tells the story of how Korah led an unsuccessful rebellion against Moses and Aaron. After thwarting the insurrection, God confirms Aaron in the priesthood and provides additional legislation regarding priestly and Levitical privileges and responsibilities.

Though Dathan and Abiram accused Moses of arrogance, he was actually the most humble man on earth. At the burning bush, he had argued with God against his appointment, and he only reluctantly stepped into the role of prophet and redeemer. He regarded himself as nobody special. It was not that Moses had poor self-esteem; he simply had an accurate assessment of his own worth before God.

And they rose up before Moses, together with some of the sons of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, chosen in the assembly, men of renown. (Numbers 16:2)

"You're not the boss of me." That's what we used to say when we were kids. And it was probably true. Your older brother or the bully on the playground wasn't the boss of you, even if he thought he was. Korah and his followers rose up against Moses and said, "You're not the boss of us."

In Numbers 16:3, we read that Korah and his followers "assembled together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, 'You have gone far enough, for all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?'" They accused Moses and Aaron of taking the first-boss positions. They questioned whether Moses had really heard from the LORD, and they refused his authority over their lives.

In reality, Moses never said, "I'm first boss. I should be the leader of all Israel. I am fit to be a leader." Moses never said, "I am really something. I am a big somebody."Neither He nor Aaron volunteered for their positions, submitted an application for their jobs or campaigned for their offices. They were simply serving God in the positions to which He had appointed them.

When Moses summoned the Reubenites Dathan and Abiram, they replied with a stunning display of impertinence. They reversed the promises of Canaan by speaking of Egypt, the land of their servitude, as a "land flowing with milk and honey" (Numbers 16:13). In other words, they were saying they had been happier being unredeemed in Egypt. They rejected Moses' authority and asked, "You would also lord it over us?" (Numbers 16:13). They denied his prophetic inspiration when they asked, "Would you put out the eyes of these men?" (Numbers 16:14); that is to say, "Are you trying to pull the wool over our eyes?"

Ironically, Korah, Dathan, Abiram and their followers were the ones exalting themselves and claiming to be big somebodies. Theirs was a posture of self-exaltation. "And they rose up before Moses" (Numbers 16:2).

Regarding Moses, the Torah says, "He fell on his face" (Numbers 16:4). The Master says, "Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted" (Matthew 23:12). Moses was not putting on a fake or obsequious humility. He had a genuine sense of insignificance in the face of the Almighty. That is why he was exalted by God.

When a man regards himself as a big somebody, he becomes angry with others who do not acknowledge his big somebodiness. He wants to be the boss. God says to the big somebody, "There is not room in the universe for both you and Me." God is the only true Somebody and the only real Boss. Only when a man utterly subjects his own will to God and says, "Not as I will, but as You will" (Matthew 26:39), is God able to inhabit him, work through him and ultimately exalt him. Such a person was Moses, the most humble man of his generation.

Adapted From: Torah Club Commentary Set: Unrolling the Scroll. Learn more about Torah Club and how you can start a Club of your own, or join a Torah Club in your area. Visit TORAHCLUB.ORG

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