When Moshe first hears the accusations of Korah, he has an extreme physical reaction: “He fell on his face” (Numbers 16:4). As the complaints mount up against him and Aharon, God has had enough, and warns the two leaders, “Stand back from this community that I may annihilate them in an instant” (16:21). What is their reaction? “But they fell on their faces…” (16:22).
What’s with all the face-planting? It seems an odd move from leaders, who we usually expect to stand upright in the face of challenges. We also know that this is not the first time their leadership has been under assault. Was this latest complaint the straw that broke Moshe’s back, causing him to fall flat on his face?
Traditional and modern commentators alike have explored the meaning of a leader laying prostrate on the ground. They’ve also noted that there are significant differences between the two episodes cited above. On Shabbat morning, we will look at some of those commentators, including Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and American Jewish novelist Adam Levin, and find out what a leader can teach us with a face-plant.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and Hodesh Tov,