This week's Torah portion is called Korach and comes from Numbers 16:1 through 18:32. it is interesting to note that it is named for the rebel who brought severe judgment upon Israel. Korach led a group of over 250 dissidents to confront Moses. They claimed to be as holy as Moses and as able to lead as he was. Remember that Moses was leading only because G-d had insisted. He had tried to talk G-d into sending someone else ever since G-d first called him at the burning bush. Now, Korach was a Levite, so this was especially troublesome to Moses and to G-d. According to 16: 8-11,"Then Moses said to Korach, "Hear now, you sons of Levi, is it not enough for you that the G-d of Israel has separated you from the rest of the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do the service of the tabernacle of the L-rd, and to stand before the congregation to minister to them; and that He has brought you near, Korach, and all your brothers, sons of Levi, with you? And are you seeking for the priesthood also? "Therefore you and all your company are gathered together against the L-rd; but as for Aaron, who is he that you grumble against him?" Not only was this group speaking out against Moses, from whom G-d had demonstrated great signs throughout their time in the wilderness, but they were coming against Aaron, the man from among the Levites G-d had appointed as Priest.
Moses had them bring incense before the L-rd on the following day. When they had gathered before the Tent of Meeting, G-d instructed them to go to the tents of those who had rebelled. All of the rebels stood in the doorways of their tents, and offered incense to G-d, according to their position as Levites. But, because of their rebellious spirits, G-d caused the ground to open up and they were all consumed in an instant; them, their entire families and all that they owned.
Because so many who were not part of the actual rebellion were favorable to it, G-d was not finished with His judgment yet. A plague broke out among the people of Israel. As soon as he saw it, Moses sent Aaron to make a sacrifice on behalf of the sinful people and the plague was stopped, but not before 14,700 were killed.
This portion is so rich. In chapter 17, verses 16-24 we read the story of how Aaron's rod budded as a sign that he would be the one selected by G-d to stand before Him and to minister to the children of Israel and on their behalf. But, with such an honor came a very deep responsibility as well. 18:1 warns"So the L-rd said to Aaron, "You and your sons and your father's household with you shall bear the guilt in connection with the sanctuary, and you and your sons with you shall bear the guilt in connection with your priesthood." This tells us too that as we serve before G-d as His priests, we have a great and awesome responsibility to safeguard His Presence and to keep away any who would defile it.
From this too comes a great misunderstanding that has plagued the church in modern times. In chapter 18 verses 8 through 22 is G-d's gift of the tithe to the priests. So, many in the church have taught that the tithe is theirs since they are priests unto the L-rd. Dear friends, listen to me. I am a Cohen, that means that I am a physical descendent of Aaron. If anyone was entitled to the tithe, it is me! But read verse 21 of this chapter which says, ""To the sons of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they perform, the service of the tent of meeting." Where is the Tent of Meeting today? It is the local church; the place where the followers of the Most High meet in His Presence and seek His Face and to hear His word. And who are those who "perform the service of the Tent of Meeting?" It is the local pastor and the staff of the congregation. The tithe belongs in the storehouse into which the L-r d has placed you.
Let me close with a verse form the Prophet Malachi, " Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this," says the L-rd of hosts, "if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows."