Parshat Korach: Power of Community

Community is an essential part of Judaism. Parshat Korach is about the risks of separating oneself from the community, which resonates through today.

Rashi highlights that Korah’s separateness is already expressed in the first verse: “And Korach took…” It does not say what he took; it only lists a few of his followers. Rashi, citing midrash Tanhuma teaches: He purposely took himself out of the community to make machloket (conflict). The story continues with Korah’s claims, refusal to engage in dialogue with Moshe and Aaron and punishment. How surprising it is then that Korah’s “edah” (community) is the source in the Talmud for the requirement to pray in a minyan (quorum) of ten men! (There is also value placed on praying as part of a tzibbur – of men and women). 

The source for minyan in the Talmud is derived from a verbal analogy in Torah. Vayikra states that God should be sanctified “among” Bnei Yisrael. The word among is also used when God instructs Moshe to separate from “among” Korah’s community (edah), as attempts to reason with them were futile. The word edah is also used in the story of the spies, from which the number ten is derived for minyan. So the basis for communal prayer is derived from two groups of great sinners. 

Perhaps this was not only a literary connection, but rather a deeper point expressed by the rabbis. Separating and not engaging with diverse perspectives can lead to isolation and extremism. By deriving minyan from such imperfect models, the Sages encourage openness and inclusiveness within communities. This allows for people of varying religious commitments, or who feel less worthy, to take part in communal prayer. Shabbat Shalom -Karen Miller Jackson

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