Korach: And the rejoicing began

It was the Anniversary-Day, the day on which On ben Pelet, last of the Korachite mutineers, celebrated his survival of the Great Catastrophe. Little children of the Reuben and Levite tribes flocked into his tent, where Yecholah bat Nifla, his loving wife, gave the little ones cookies she baked from an old recipe—“As good as the manna we ate in the Wilderness!” swore the elders, some of whom still kept a small pot of the real manna, secreted away in their tents. The adults made do with the parched grain dipt into vinegar which Yecholah proffered them, and not a few had a nip of the special honey-mead which On himself distilled—“from an old family recipe, going all the way back to Egypt!” he would tell them proudly, although they knew it was not true. Slaves building pyramids had no time to tipple, even had there been anything besides the brackish water which the cruel Egyptian taskmasters gave the Israelites. 

“We are lucky, all of us, to be free of slavery,” said On, sipping delicately at his own cup of mead.

“Do you think that Merneptah will offer us reparations?” asked a young Levite.

“Reparations? What—are ye crazed from the sun’s rays?” rasped On.

“But, Master On, our ancestors—yourself among them—slaved for four hundred years!” persisted the tyro.

“Now ye listen to me, younker,” said On, taking the young man’s robe, up by his neck, and twisting it until the young Levite gasped for air, “there will be no reparations! The Egyptians need all their gold to placate the Hyksos that threaten them. Well, no matter—” he continued, releasing the Levite from his iron grasp, “Let me tell my story—how I survived, and afterwards begat all of you.”

“Ahem—” said Yecholah, “with my help, I’m sure!”

“Oh, yes, my Dear—” said On, looking guilty, “We must always pay homage to the ladies—see that ye do, all ye Young Men!”

The youth nodded guiltily; some had their affianced young women by their side.

“And so, how I survived the Big Crevice, into which Korach, Datan, and Abiram fell—” began On.

“And didn’t many of the offering Levites—those with incense—were they burned by Heavenly Fire?” asked a young Reubenite.

“Ah, yes—” retorted On, “and you can bet that I kept my distance from them! Something, I don’t know what, told me to stand closer to Korach—what an orator he was! It just shows you how one fool can, through his bellowing voice, convince a mass of other fools to follow his stupidity—and I, there among them!”

“And what did you do, Great-Uncle On?” asked a little Levite.

“Do? Do? Well, I was just a youngster then, young man—just like you,” returned On, lifting his beaker to his lips. “And I saw that, while Korach had the people by the ears, the entire affair would end to no good—after all, Moses, despite being old and crochety, had the LORD GOD on his side. So, even while I stood near enough to loud, blustery Korach, I kept an eye on Moses. That was best….”

“And what happened, Neighbor On?” asked an elder, who was standing next to the mead-cask.

“Why, the ground split open!” cried On, “and Korach’s evil crew fell into a vast darkness—Sheol, Hades, or Hell, who knows?”

“But why did you not fall into the hole, along with the miscreants?” asked a Levite teenager.

“Because I held on!” said On, and flexed his still-strong muscles. “Let that be a lesson to all of ye—follow not a fool according to his folly, and avoid the mistakes I committed! And now, Friend Mezamer, sing us a song, and beat that tambour ye’re holding!”

And the rejoicing began.

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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