November 16, 2018

Rosner’s Torah-Talk: Parashat Korach with Rabbi Joshua Katzan

Our guest this week is Rabbi Joshua Katzan, the rabbi of Congregation Habonim in NYC. Rabbi Katzan holds a Master’s in Rabbinic literature from the University of Judaism. While living and learning in Jerusalem during Rabbinical School, he spent time studying at the Conservative Movement's Rabbinical Seminary, the Schechter institute of Judaic Studies, was a Fellow at Hebrew University's Melton Senior Educators program, and a student at the Shalom Hartman Institute, where he concentrated on the areas of mysticism, philosophy, and Bible. Prior to Congregation Habonim, Rabbi Katzan was a founder of the grass-roots program, Makor, which organized once a month community Shabbat dinners and taught Jewish education courses at Milken Community High School in Los Angeles.

This week's Torah Portion – Parashat Korach (Numbers 16:1-18:32) – tells the dramatic story of a mutiny incited by Korach against the leadership of Moses and Aaron. Korach is joined by Datan and Aviram as well as by 250 distinguished members of the community who offer incense to prove they are worthy of the priesthood. The earth opens up and swallows the mutineers, and a fire kills the incense offerers. Aaron subsequently stops a plague by offering incense of his own and his staff then brings forth almonds, proving that his designation as high priest is divinely ordained. Our discussion focuses on the character of Korach and on the question of what he symbolizes.

Our Previous discussions of Parashat Korach:

Rabbi David Nevins on the Torah’s concept of clergy

Rabbi Susan Silverman on the punishment given to Korach and his followers