Shlomo M. Hamburger

Dangers of a demagogue: Parshat Korach

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson were camping in the woods. In the middle of the night, Sherlock wakes up Watson and asks what he sees. “Millions of stars,” Watson replies. He then explains the astronomical, astrological, meteorological, and theological implications of the stars. Sherlock responds, “Watson, don’t you see? Someone stole our tent.”

Sometimes, in our rush to find deeper meaning, we overlook what is (or isn’t) right in front of us.

Parshat Korach tells the story of Korach’s rebellion. The basic facts are well known – Korach, Datan, Aviram, and Ohn, along with 250 followers, challenged Moshe and Aaron. Korach’s persuasive rhetoric and cunning led to chaos, highlighting the dangers of a demagogue who can manipulate and mislead the masses. The Earth swallowed the rebels, but what really happened to Korach? Looking closely at the text reveals ambiguity and deeper lessons about leadership, logic, and the perils of charismatic yet destructive leaders.

Explore how the story of Korach serves as a cautionary tale against demagoguery in my essay on this topic. Read the full essay here.

About the Author
Shlomo (Paul) M. Hamburger is a retired lawyer. He is the author of numerous books and articles and a frequent speaker and teacher. Shlomo is on the International Advisory Board for Chabad on Campus International. He is also the author of "The Anochi Project: Seeking God's Identity" and "Unlocking the Code: The Letters of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, Translations with Practical Lessons".