Sunday, 19 June 2011

Shir Hashavua - Korach

"Shir Hashavua" means "song of the week".  The Five Books of Moses; the first 5 books of the Old Testament, are split into 54 Parashiot ("sections" in Hebrew). In the Jewish religion, we read a different successive Parasha in synagogue every week. I am gradually trying to compose a poem or parody about each Parasha.

This week's parasha is Korach (Book of Numbers; Chapters 16-18 inclusive) . The central theme is a challenge to Moses' authority by his cousin Korach and his followers. We are told that Korach and his followers were swallowed by the earth as proof of God's appointment of Moses as the leader of the Children of Israel. The text lists some of Korach's followers by name, and one of these is On, son of Peleth, His name is mentioned as one of the initial rebels, but when Korach assembles his followers later in the story to challenge Moses, On's name is omitted.

Various commentators refer to this omission, and several Midrashic (=extrapolated stories) explanations indicate that On's wife managed, by various means, to prevent his continued participation in the rebellion. Her behaviour is contrasted with Korach's wife, who encouraged her husband in his challenge to Moses. We are not told the name of On's wife, but this poem is about her.

On, son of Peleth, was a pious Jew.
On, son of Peleth, rebelled without a clue.
Threw in his lot with Korach. How far would he go?
Not that far, hints the Torah, because his wife said No.
Moses or Korach, who would be his boss?
The answer is Mrs On, and she don't give a toss.
So hearken to me, rebels, before ye stir up strife.
Remember On Ben-Peleth, and listen to your wife.

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