The machlokes (dispute) instigated by Korach was not for the sake of Heaven and therefore is not everlasting, while the Talmudic disputes between Hillel and Shamai were for the sake of Heaven and therefore are everlasting. (Pirkei Avos 5:20) This is counter-intuitive. We always appreciate peace and harmony, so wouldn’t we expect a ‘good’ dispute to eventually dissipate while it would be the ‘bad’ dispute that lasts forever?
Korach’s reputation is deeply associated with machlokes. Nonetheless, his proposal was that everyone is equal and that there was therefore no need for Moshe’s leadership. In a sense, then, he was against having chilukim/differences and he favored equality, so why is he viewed as the ultimate in machlokes/divisiveness?
There is a fundamental distinction between shalom/peace, on the one hand, and equality/no differences, on the other.
Shalom does not mean we are the same; in fact it means that we recognize that we are different from one another and that each of us has a unique role to play in serving the larger cause of Klal Yisroel’s mission in this world.
For example, shalom bayis (domestic tranquility) doesn’t mean that the two individuals are exactly alike and therefore get along; rather it means that in spite of their very different natures they work harmoniously together in pursuing common goals. The peacefulness lies in accepting the differences and agreeing to work side-by-side toward the common goal. Similarly, Rashi says that the plague of hail was comprised of fire and water and that, in order to serve their Creator, the two opposing elements made peace. (Parshas Vo’era 9:24)
Conversely, machlokes means refusing to recognize that different people have different roles as a result of their unique and innate talents and characteristics; I want everyone to be the same even though really we’re not. This is, of course, folly. And anyone who asserts that there are no differences between us (and that therefore there should be no separation of roles) is necessarily carrying an agenda – logically it otherwise makes no sense to blatantly ignore obvious differences. In Korach’s case this agenda was his own jealousy of the position of Kohen Gadol (High Priest) which he coveted.
[This is based on a shiur of HoRav Yochanan Zweig, Shlita.]
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