Step AsideBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
G-d told Moshe and Aharon to stand aside, as He was about to strike down the entire community. They prayed that He only punish the rebels. G-d agreed and instructed the people to distance themselves from Korach’s assembly. (The words “mishkan Korach” could be taken to mean that Korach had established a “breakaway” Tabernacle.) The people scrambled, but Dasan and Aviram arrogantly stood in front of their tents, supported by their families.
Moshe announced that the people were about to see proof that it was G-d, not he, calling the shots. The proof would be that these rebels would perish in a novel, miraculous fashion. The ground then opened up beneath Korach and his deputies, swallowing them, their tents and all their possessions. The ground closed up over them and they were gone. Korach’s 250 followers had an “uh oh” moment and started to run away, but it was pretty pointless. They were consumed by a fire from Heaven.
G-d told Moshe that Elazar should take the pans used by the rebels to offer incense and put them to good use. (The pans had been consecrated by their service to Him.) Elazar beat the copper pans into a covering for the altar. This would serve as a visible reminder to the people not to be like Korach and his followers, inappropriately inserting themselves into service designated only for the kohanim.
The next day, the people complained to Moshe that he had caused the deaths of the rebels. They were protesting at the Mishkan when G-d caused His Presence to manifest.
We’ll continue the narrative in the next aliyah. Before we do, let’s tie up a few loose ends about Korach:
* At the beginning, Korach had three deputies, but then he only had two, Dasan and Aviram. What happened to Ohn? According to Talmud Sanhedrin 109b, Ohn’s wife realized that he was in a no-win situation: either Moshe would be the boss or Korach would be the boss. There was no benefit in it for Ohn, so she finagled him out of it.
* In Talmud Baba Basra 74a, Rabbah bar Bar Chana was shown the place where Korach was swallowed. There was a smoldering crevice and voices could be heard saying, “Moshe is true and the Torah is true; we are the liars!”
* Only family members who bought into the rebellion were punished. Korach had G-d-fearing sons who refused to go along with his plan and survived. The prophet Samuel (Shmuel) was descended from Korach (see Rashi 16:7), as were the authors of numerous Psalms (see Nach Yomi Companion vol. 2 on Psalm 42).