Take Me

Double Mitzvah Jewrotica Parsha

Written by Sender Rozesz. Sender Rozesz is a practicing attorney with a background in Jewish pluralistic education for adults. Sender Rozesz is Jewrotica’s resident Double Mitzvah columnist. The views reflected in his writing represent his own personal views, and are not intended to reflect the views of any organizations, institutes or associations with whom he may be affiliated.

Rated PG

Last year this week, for the Parshah of Korach, we discussed the two wives whose unseen influence shaped their husband’s futures, and left their mark upon the Jewish nation as a whole. This year, I would like to draw upon the same biblical episode, this time highlighting a particular expression that introduces our Parshah.

First though, a quick refresher:

Korach and several allies — including one known as Ohn, the son of Peleth — made a public stand against Moses. In did not turn out well for Korach, as the ground opened up beneath him and his family, and swallowed them alive. Ohn, however was not among them. Tradition has it that Korach’s wife spurred him on, advising him, cajoling him, to seek greater and loftier position, even if it meant challenging Moses. Korach followed her counsel, and forfeited his life as a result. Conversely, Ohn’s wife understood that challenging Moses would be disastrous for her family, and she took steps to prevent Ohn from honoring his alliance with Korach. As a result, Ohn was spared.

The Parshah opens with the words “Vayikach Korach,” literally translated as: “And Korach took” — the Hebrew root word “kach” meaning “take.” The text itself does not say what Korach took; it simply proceeds to state that he and his allies stood up before Moses.

So what did he take?

Some say that this “taking” was an expression of Korach “taking” himself out of the general populace to rebel against Moses. Others say that his rebellion began with a legal challenge when he confronted Moses with a talit made entirely of blue wool that Korach “took” from his tent (long story).

But we know, as we discussed here, that Korach’s rebellion was inspired by his wife. And the word “taking” has a long-standing association with the marriage of husband and wife.

For starters, the very concept of marriage is expressed in the Torah with the words: “When a man takes a wife and is intimate with her.” [1] And now that we’re looking, we can see such “takings” occurring with most of our biblical couples:

  • “And Lemech took himself two wives…” [2]
  • “And Abram and Nahor took themselves wives; the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai…” [3]
  • “And Isaac brought her to the tent of Sarah his mother, and he took Rebecca, and she became his wife, and he loved her.” [4]
  • “And Abraham took another wife and her name was Keturah.” [5]
  • “And Shechem the son of Hamor . . . took her, lay with her, and violated her.” [6]
  • “And there Judah saw the daughter of a merchant named Shua, and he took her and came to her.” [7]
  • “And Judah took a wife for Er, his firstborn, named Tamar.” [8]
  • “A man of the house of Levi went and took a daughter of Levi.” [9]

Now, in some of these examples — such as Isaac’s marriage to Rebecca — the expression “he took her” seems entirely superfluous. After all, he “brought her,” she “became his wife,” and “he loved her”; did the Torah really need to add “he took her”?

And look at the examples when the expression of “taking” is not used:

    Adam did not take Eve — he knew her. [10]

  • Abram did not take Hagar to be a second wife — she was given to him by Sarai. [11]
  • Jacob did not take his four wives — they were given to him by Laban. [12]
  • Joseph did not take Osnat as a wife — she was given to him by Pharaoh. [13]
  • Moses did not take Tzipporah as a wife — she was given to him by Jethro. [14]

It seems then that the expression “taking” is used when a man goes out and, from all of the available women, he selects one to be his wife. Adam had no other choices, so he did not “take” Eve. Abram was not looking for a second wife, but Sarai provided him with one; he did not “take” her. Jacob, Joseph and Moses did not choose their wives from among others; their wives were given to them by those with the power to do so.

It is this act of selection, the making of a choice from among multiple options, that is implicit in the expression “taking.”

This is true anthropomorphically as well.

While it is true that G-d redeemed the Jewish people, saved them, gave them the Torah, brought them to the Land of Israel, and loved them, G-d is careful to say “I will take you to Me as a people.” [15] Similarly, when G-d expresses his affection for the Levites, He says: “In the place of those that open the womb all the firstborn of Israel, I have taken them for Myself . . . I have taken the Levites from the place of all the firstborn of the children of Israel.” [16]

“Taking” is how G-d expresses His act of selecting the Jewish people from amongst the other nations, and — with the Jewish nation itself — selecting the Levites from among the other tribes to serve Him in the sanctuary.

“Taking” is a deeply romantic, intimate, primal expression, which has survived the eons and continues in modern lexicon to communicate a sense of hungry abandon. To have your way with me. To claim and possess me. Take me now. To know someone — even in the biblical sense — is intimate, but on a far more intellectual and emotional level. The biblical expression “and he came on to her,” simply means the physical act of sex. Taking her, on other hand, suggests a raw and unadulterated need to erotically possess another.

Korach took.

Did he “take” himself, in an act of sheer narcissism, in which he selected and set himself apart from his community for imagined greatness? Or is it a reference to the fact that Korach’s scheme was born of the passion that he shared with his wife?

Either way, by introducing the Parshah with the words “Korach took,” Torah signals to us at the very outset that Korach was absolutely committed and invested in this path, with all of the passion and need that is present when a man takes a woman.

Works Cited

[1] Deuteronomy, 24:1.

[2] Genesis, 4:19.

[3] Genesis, 11:29.

[4] Genesis, 24:67.

[5] Genesis, 25:1.

[6] Genesis, 34:2.

[7] Genesis, 38:2.

[8] Genesis, 38:6.

[9] Exodus, 2:1.

[10] Genesis, 4:1.

[11] Genesis, 16:3-4.

[12] Genesis, 29:19-28

[13] Genesis, 41:45.

[14] Exodus,, 2:21. This, perhaps, casts additional light on the cryptic discussion between Miriam and Aaron regarding Moses — as we discussed here — and “the Cushite woman that he took, for he took a Cushite woman.” Numbers, 12:1. To the extent that the Torah deliberately did not refer to Moses’s marriage to Tzipporah as a “taking,” this may provide further support for the idea that Tzipporah had the Cushite woman may have been two different people.

[15] Exodus, 6:7.
[16] Numbers, 8:16,18.