In Parashat Korach, Moshe tells Korach and his followers to prepare a pan of incense which will be used as a test to determine if Moshe and Aharon are the proper leaders of Bnei Yisrael. A subtle problem is created by this suggestion. Moshe seems to be using excessive force in dissolving Korach’s rebellion. Instead of trying to peacefully put down the rebels, Moshe chooses an approach which will lead to death of those who oppose him. Why does Moshe deal so harshly with Korach?
This issue can be solved by comparing Moshe’s situation to a teacher’s reaction to misbehavior after a long period of vacation. The students aren’t used to the rules of a classroom when they return from the vacation, and therefore the teacher “overreacts” to the first class disturbance by sending a disruptive student to the principal, even for a minor infraction. This reestablishes the rules of the classroom and reminds the students who is in charge. Similarly, Moshe must “overreact” when dealing with Korach by telling him to bring the incense. Moshe uses Korach as an example, a necessary sacrifice, in order to establish order and prevent future rebellions. If Moshe would have dispersed the rebellion in a different, softer manner, Bnei Yisrael wouldn’t have learned that this type of behavior is unacceptable and might have continued to question Moshe and Aharon. Therefore, Moshe’s “excessive force” was actually the perfect amount of force, and his “overreaction” was simply the necessary action that had to be taken, as unfair to Korach as it may seem. Whether this type of situation occurs in a classroom or elsewhere in life, we must understand that sometimes drastic action is called for.