Volume 30 Issue 17 11 Jun 2021 1 Tammuz 5781

From the Head of Jewish Life

Rabbi Daniel Siegel – Head of Jewish Life


In last week’s Devar Torah, entitled Aliyah with Conviction, we saw that the root word עלה/alah go up, ascend (עליה/Aliyah-meaning going up, immigrating to Israel) played a prominent role in parashat shelach lekha.

When the Israelites were encouraged to go up into Cana’an they refused to do so, claiming they were not capable of claiming the land. Then, regretting the consequences of their refusal due to fear, they sought to go up and were routed, as they did so without conviction.  

In this week’s parashah, Korach, the root word עלה/alah is once again featured. The failure of rising to the occasion in last week’s parashah manifests itself here with Datan and Aviram refusing to to come before Moshe and Aharon to explain their rising up against them. They say: לא נעלה – “We will not go up (to meet with you)”, reminding us of the words of the people in last week’s parashah, לעלות לא נוכל – ‘We are not capable of going up (to claim Cana’an)’.

They then add, “Is it a small thing that you have brought us up (העליתנו) out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness”? Not only can they not rise to the occasion of gaining the promised land of “milk and honey”, but they refuse to rise to a level of dialogue with Moshe and Aharon, claiming that the latter brought them up from what was such a bounteous land, Egypt. They then add that Moshe and Aharon were the ones who could not rise up with the words “Moreover you have not brought us into a land with milk and honey…we will not come up”.

Their final words, לא נעלה/“we will not come up”, a repetition of their earlier words, were prophetic. Moshe instructs the people to rise above/ מעל the stand of Datan, Aviram and Korach, brothers in the insurgence. With the congregation having “gone up” from the rebellious faction and their retinue, we read that the latter “went down” (וירדו), into the ground to be heard from no more.

In rising above our failures rather than seeking to bring others down, we gain a voice making for a collective עליה/aliyah to a shared world of milk and honey.