Its not too often that sinners are struck down by lighting bolts from heaven. Yet, that's exactly what happened to those who led the mutiny against Moshe. After attempting to usurp Aharon's role as High Priest, Moshe challenges them to bring an incense offering and await God's response. As they stand in anticipation, with their copper pans in hand, they are struck down by a heavenly fire.
What happens next seems bizarre. God commands Moshe to gather the pans and beat them into a copper plate to cover the Altar - "for they are holy." Although the offerings are categorically rejected, in the harshest terms, the pans somehow became holy. In an ironic twist, the offerings of the rebels were repudiated but each and every future offering could only be accepted on the surface of their copper pans.
The revolt against Aharon & Moshe stemmed from a genuine thirst for greater religious fulfillment. Why couldn't they experience the spiritual bliss of a High Priest in the Holy of Holies? Their motivation was sincere. Yet, their approach was unsavory, disrespectful, and pernicious.
Our rhetoric makes a difference no mater how noble our cause may be.
The rhetoric of "resistance" pervades our culture today. No matter how noble the cause, the way we present our case and achieve our goals requires dignity and honour.
In the ancient world copper was used as a mirror. Each person that entered the Temple needed to look at themselves as they embarked on a quest for a higher ideal. May we all strive for lofty goals while remembering to respect ourselves and others in the process.