Korach by Rabbi David Hartley Mark

Korach (קורח)
Torah: Numbers 16:1 – 18:32
Haftarah: I Samuel 11:14 – 12:22

Royal Egyptian Army Military Dispatch: Official Eyes Only

 Garrison Report, Fortress #14, South-West Boundary, Kingdom of Pharaoh Merneptah, Year 1209 of the Reign of Sacred Pharaoh-Father-Ruler Merneptah-Baenre-Merynetjeru.

Greetings! I, Horemheb, Lieutenant-Colonel Commanding, 57th Battalion, “Battle-Falcons,” Royal Egyptian Infantry, do submit the following Monthly Report of Our Troop Activities Guarding the South-West Boundary of Merneptah’s Sacred Lands, Canaanite Territories:

Item: Ten Canaanite Terrorists, probing our positions: repulsed by Patrol from “Osiris’s Revenge” Chariot Troop, Major Khafre Commanding. Results: five Terrorists killed; three wounded, two escaped—two Canaanite terrorists dispatched, one captain, held for ransom; no losses to our troops, by the Grace of Sun-God-Re.

Item: Two Troop-Probes of Canaanite Territory as Retaliation for Their Violation of Our Border: Treacherous Canaanite Archers Attempt to Ambush our Chariots, but Our Men retired in Good Fighting Order; No Losses to our Glorious Soldiers; One Horse Wounded, later Dispatched.

Item: Four Wagon-Loads local provisions received by our Cook—fruit, vegetables, wheat; payment made, bills enclosed for Royal Commissary’s Receipts; See Attached Receipt-Papyri

Item: Sergeant Muwatallis found Guilty of Drinking Alcohol While on Night-Watch; Jailed Two Weeks as Punishment, Reduced to Private; Lance-Corporal Amennemhet Promoted to Acting-Sergeant in His Place; His Promotion Ceremony to follow when our Unit returns to Barracks during Rainy Season, Sun-god-Re Willing.

Item: One Israelite Refugee, Ziphron ben Abiram by Name, wandered into our Garrison from Wilderness Direction, Coming from North-Eastern Territory; Fear of his Being Hittite Spy;

 

Interrogated by Capt. Meryibre with Lt. Nebkaure as Interpreter.

Transcript of Interrogation Follows: Sgt. Merenre, Scribe, Recording.

Note that Slave-Hebrew is designated as H; Interrogation Questions as E.

 

E: Before we begin, Hebrew, let me state that you are in no danger, if you answer all of our questions fully and truthfully. If you lie to us, your punishment will be swift and terrible. Do not forget that your ancestors were our slaves, years ago. For the Record, Hebrew, state your full name, family, and tribe.

H: My name is Ziphron ben Abiram. My father, Abiram, is a member of our Levite-Tribe, and dared to rebel against the leader of our people, one Moses.

E: ‘Moses? I recall hearing this name, during History Class in The Royal Egyptian Army Officers’ School. He was a wizard who angered our ancestor, Ramesses II, and was speedily driven out of our land, but not before stealing much gold, silver, and precious raiment, as well as taking with him a few common Habiru slaves. We heard stories of your god, as well, but our god, Pharaoh Ramesses, was mightier, and was able to chase him away, despite losing two or three chariots at the Reed Sea.What brought you to our Canaanite Border Garrison, Hebrew? Are you a spy?

H: I am no spy, Milord! My father, Abiram, dared to challenge Moses for leadership of our tribe, our people.

E: Hm. No spy, but a rebel: yes—your people are stubborn, stiff-necked, and rebellious. We have heard of them. So, Son of Rebel: was your father a more powerful wizard than Moses? What was—Abiram’s?—challenge to your Chief Wizard, ‘Moses?

H: He, and two others, Korach and Datan, wished to lead our people, rather than Moses. Moses spoke to our God, and God told us all to appear before Him the next day, with special priestly tools and fire-pans for incense.

E: Were these—fire-pans?—the weapons you were to use to fight this ‘Moses?

H: All we had were fire-pans and prayers. They were not weapons of war, but instruments of faith.

E: I do not understand this term, “faith.” (Make a note, Scribe; we may look it up, later.) Why was Moses your leader? Was he a more powerful god?

H: He is but a man, able to speak with our God as I am speaking to you. Who made him a prince and a judge over us? We believed that any of us, of our tribe, the Levites, could lead the people, as well as he. Why should he raise himself up over us? He told us that God commanded us to come before Him the next day.

E: And what happened the next day?

H: As we stood before Moses and his brother Aaron, the sky grew dark. We waved our incense-pans; the sweet savour rose into the cloudless sky; we prayed to God, as he did. I heard my father call to Korach, our leader, “Look, look at the sky! See there: Pillar of Cloud, Pillar of Fire! Who can tell whom the Mighty God of Israel will choose?”

E: Did your god favor you, or Moses? Speak, Hebrew, speak! Why, what ails the fool? Speak, you—

 

(At this point, the Prisoner broke into hysterical tears, unable to speak further. Capt. Meryibre slapped the Prisoner across the face, several times, striking him to the floor, and kicking him with his heavy cavalry sandals. Lt. Nebkaure finally stepped between Capt. Meryibre and the prisoner, fearful for the prisoner’s life; the wretched Hebrew crawled into a corner of the tent, shaking from fear, and sobbing quietly. Interrogation was stopped to fetch wine, for the prisoner, to calm his mind. Corporal Montu and Private Kaure fetched a stool, on which they seated the prisoner. After a few minutes, the Prisoner calmed down enough to continue):

 

H: The sky went black, and it began to lightning and thunder. The ground beneath our feet began to move, to rumble, as if from an earthquake; I turned, and dropped my fire-pan—but before I started to run to safety, I thought I saw Korach being lifted up into the air by a hurricane—and and I called out, “My Father! My Father! The Chariots of Israel and Its Horsemen!”—it was as if the ground was splitting under my feet; there was a burning sulphur smell, and I heard screams—I ran and ran.

 

(Prisoner began again to beat his fists against his head, and to sob and cry uncontrollably. He would not speak further; we called soldiers to take him under guard, to a Safe Cell lined with rough burlap-and-straw pillows, where we customarily put the Soldiers who have drunk too much, and are having Hysterical Fits.)

 

Note from Lt.-Col. Horemheb, Commander, Fortress #14, to Main Army Base Commander, Heliopolis:

This Hebrew has gone mad; he will not further answer any of our questions. As of this writing, he has not yet recovered, but is still, alternatingly, sitting mutely, or screaming incessantly.

Our Cavalry Division Health-Priest does not know what to do with him, and recommends he be placed in the Hospital-Annex of the Temple of Aescelapius, god of Healing, and appropriate incense-offerings and prayers be made on his behalf. We cannot contact the Israelites by messenger or via signal-smoke; they cannot be found. The Wilderness, it appears, has swallowed them up; they are lost.

We note strange sky-markings in the Fourth Desert Sector, Southern Boundary, Canaanite Territories, Purview Garrison-Fortresses #s 16 & 11, and will report Observations as our Pickets bring them in.

Currently, they report: Pillar of Cloud by Day; Pillar of Fire by Night (allowing for Possible Desert Mirage).

No large Enemy Troop-Movements seen, since Girgashite Charioteers were repulsed by Squadron of 61st Cavalry (“Bastet-Claws” Troop), a fortnight ago, with no Vendetta-Action Visible Currently.

Infantry Division Alert Level: Mid-Yellow.

Here ends our Report.

 

All Hail our God-King-Father-Ruler, Pharaoh Merneptah-Baenre-Merynetjeru!

 

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Rabbi David Hartley Mark is from New York City’s Lower East Side. He attended Yeshiva University, the City University of NY Graduate Center for English Literature, and received semicha at the Academy for Jewish Religion. He currently teaches English at Everglades University in Boca Raton, FL, and has a Shabbat pulpit at Temple Sholom of Pompano Beach. His literary tastes run to Isaac Bashevis Singer, Stephen King, King David, Kohelet, Christopher Marlowe, and the Harlem Renaissance.

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