The parsha (as the name suggests) focuses on Korach’s rebellion. Korach was a wealthy and ambitious man, jealous of the position of Moses and Aaron. His main complaint to Moses can be summed up as “you have gone too far ! The whole community is holy, every one of them and the Lord is with them. Why do you set yourselves above God’s congregation?” it can be argued that some of what Korach said was undoubtedly true – all the community was holy and He was also correct in saying that God was with the whole of the Jewish People after the exodus from Eqypt. The construction of the tabernacle was testament to that.
Chief Rabbi Sacks makes the point that Korach’s main and indeed fundamental mistake was to claim that Moses was setting himself above God’s congregation. Korach did not understand that Moses represented a new kind of leadership, one that had not really been seen before.
To Korach leadership meant being the most important person and having the trappings of “office” – the palaces, the wealth and the power and ruling without the need for the assent of the ruled. This was the leadership of kings and pharaohs. In contrast Moses explicitly led with the consent of the Jewish people. Whilst the need for leadership is clear (and indeed without leadership there would be anarchy) Moses did not stand above the people – he served the Jewish people and he served God. This reflects a social order in which everyone has equal dignity before God.
The greatest leaders are the most humble and this is as true today as it was in biblical times – Moses was probably the greatest example of this and this was Korach’s mistake, He saw Moses and Aaron as people driven by ambition and did not comprehend that in Judaism to lead is to serve. Those who serve do not lift themselves higher up – their aim is to life other people higher up.