The 16th chapter of the Book of Numbers tells the story of Korach. It’s typically taught as a story of rebellion. A faction of Israelites, led by Korach, challenges the authority of Moses and Aaron. Moses accepts the challenge and the following morning, in an act of Divine dispute resolution, the ground opens up and swallows Korach, his household, and eventually all those who stood with him.
There are many lessons that can be learned from this story. Reading it this week I’m struck by the idea of “enough.” The Hebrew phrase, rav lachem, appears twice in the chapter. In 16:3 Korach criticizes Moses and Aaron with these words. When he does, he’s essentially saying, enough with you already. In 16:7 Moses returns the favor. He lays out a plan for resolving the dispute and concludes by saying, I’ve had enough of you too.
A few moments later, Datan and Abiram, part of the disgruntled group offer the common kvetch to Moses that he’s failed to deliver them to the “Land of Milk and Honey.” They too have had enough.
And finally, God asks Moses whether it wouldn’t be better to wipe out all the Israelites and start over again with just Moses and Aaron. God seems to have had enough as well.
Stress, exhaustion, disappointment, frustration, confusion, envy– these seem like some of the core emotions that are operating in this story. There may be others, but these are the emotions that I feel in reading the story this week. When it comes to daily life and relationships these emotions are more common than any of us might wish or want to admit.
It’s important to remember that, while these feelings are unpleasant, they aren’t unnatural or unhealthy, at least in moderation and when acknowledged and processed in thoughtful and appropriate ways. The severe consequences of this story aren’t a result of the emotions themselves as much as the ruptured relationships and the ways in which the emotions are handled. Things could’ve gone worse, but they certainly could’ve gone better as well. And that’s pretty much true for each of us in any given day and in many of our most important relationships.