As recounted in this week’s Torah portion, Korach led a rebellion against Moses and Aaron. Two hundred and fifty of Korach’s followers brazenly performed the rite of incense offering—a rite reserved only for the high priest. They were punished, but the brass pans they used in their misguided offering were salvaged. G‑d instructed that they be utilized as a covering for the altar.1 Why would a sinner’s pan be incorporated into the altar of atonement?

The simple reason given is that this would serve as a reminder to the nation never to engage in rebellion again. Yet there must be a deeper dimension, a positive aspect, to this remarkable twist in the tale.

Brass = Resolve

The chassidic masters point out that every metal used in the building of the Tabernacle represented a human character trait. Gold is indicative of awe, silver of love, and brass of conviction and strength of character. Korach and his men were indeed made of brass, prepared as they were to sacrifice their life on the altar of conviction.2

They backed the wrong horse, but they sure knew how to run. Their conviction was laudable though their choice was tragic. So G‑d instructed that the brass pans be incorporated into the altar itself, but the hot coals within it—also used to perform the incense rite—be discarded. This demonstrates that G‑d did not approve of the nature of their sacrifice, but appreciated the sacrifice itself.

Resolve, Appropriately Harnessed

The message to the nation was simple. Do not repeat Korach’s mistake, but do take a lesson from the manner in which he pursued it. Find that strength within yourself, but harness it to the service of G‑d.

Korach was given a gift, but he abused it. We need to utilize that very gift in a positive sense. Strength of character is handy when, for example, skeptics and detractors beset us and question our values.

When doubts cross our mind, when questions plague us, conviction sustains us till such time as we discover the answers. When our strength is eroded by temptations and craven delights, we rely on our inner reserves till our moment of weakness passes.

In short, when the ego, heart or mind loses enthusiasm, an unshakable faith will carry the day.

The Forty-Year Resolve

This Torah portion comes on the heels of the story we read last week, in which the nation was handed a forty-year sentence to wander the desert. It would take patience and long-term commitment to overcome this long and trying period. This strength of character was born out of the ashes of Korach’s tragedy.

Though Korach’s rebellion was ill-fated, it sparked a fire deep within the Jewish soul. If Korach could feel such conviction, then so could we. Buoyed by this conviction, the nation resolved to overcome the forty-year sentence and enter the promised land.


We too would do well to tear a page out our ancestors’ playbook. We too have been wandering for many years, and we too await the promise of return. With the conviction of a faith unshaken, let us resolve to anticipate the coming redemption speedily in our days, Amen.