The revolt in the Israelite camp reached its climax at a mass meeting of the rebels. The majority of the speakers were from the tribe of Reuben. In their so-far sharpest attack, the rebels questioned Moses and Aaron and held them guilty for unlawful appropriation of power and severe mismanagement. They called for an immediate return of the people to Egypt and warned clearly that under the continued leadership of Moses the people of Israel would be led into disaster. Among the rebels was the singer songwriter Korach from the tribe of Levy, who became
famous for writing many psalms which we still recite.
Korach and his supporters, who took part in the rebellion against Moses, died in a tragic manner. In front of thousands of people, who watched terrified, they sank into the ground, as a rift broke up and dragged them into the depth.
But why the punishment? Does not everyone in a just society have the right to express their opinion? The rebels had claimed that the whole people of Israel are holy. Which indeed is hugely different to what Moses and the Torah tried to teach: It is not about what we are, but what we can become — one should strive to become holy, one should strive to be a moral and religious people. The Torah presents some guidelines to help with this. The rebels had sharply attacked this teaching and had proclaimed, the whole people of Israel as it is, is holy. They understood holy as being special, with no need for guidance in any matters.
Holiness is not granted as a birth right to us, but as a gift, rewarding us for bringing healing—Tikun Olam—into the world.
Rabbi Adrian M Schell (Source: Annette Böckler)