Subscribe to a Weekly Series

Posted on June 22, 2023 (5783) By Rabbi Yissocher Frand | Series: | Level:

These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly portion: #1254 – Why Shouldn’t You Park In a Handicap Space? Good Shabbos!

The Ramban on the pasuk “And the earth opened its mouth and it swallowed them and their houses and all the men that were with Korach…” (Bamidbar 16:32) points out that any person associated with Korach was swallowed up when the ground opened. They were punished together with the rest of his property.

Ironically, however, the Ramban says that this dramatic punishment did not affect Korach’s own sons, as it is written in Parshas Pinchas “And the sons of Korach did not die.” (Bamidbar 26:11) Even though they were initially part of Korach’s assembly, there were spared because they were “great righteous men” whose merit saved them. What happened to Korach’s sons? How were they saved?

The Medrash (Yalkut Shimoni) says that their merit stemmed from the fact that when Korach was initially plotting his rebellion in the presence of his sons, Moshe came in and they covered their faces. They had the following dilemma: If we stand up in the presence of Moshe Rabbeinu (as protocol would demand for the Gadol Hador), this would shame our father, Moshe’s antagonist, and we are obligated to honor our father. On the other hand, if we do not stand up for Moshe, we would violate the pasuk “Mipnei seivah takum…” (Vayikra 19:32) What should we do?

The Medrash relates that they decided to honor Moshe Rabbeinu even though it would shame their father. At that moment, they had pangs of repentance (hirhurei teshuva), as King David said, “My heart acquired a good matter…” (Tehillim 45:2)

I will share two comments on this Medrash:

1. Why did they choose to give honor to Moshe Rabbeinu over their father? Why did Moshe win out in the end? I saw in the sefer Darash Mordechai that this shows the power of the chinuch (education) of a home. Rashi says that Korach was amongst those who carried the Aron Kodesh (Ark) during the travels in the Wilderness. Any person who carried the Aron Kodesh had to be extremely careful about one thing: Kavod HaTorah. Someone who does not treat the Torah with the proper deference and honor died on the spot when lifting the Aron Kodesh. It was like carrying something that was radioactive. If you did not take the proper precautions, it could kill you.

There was something that permeated the house of Korach more than anything else: Kavod HaTorah. Kavod HaTorah. Kavod HaTorah. When you get something in your mother’s milk, when that becomes the raison d’être of your house – it becomes so important to you that it trumps everything else in your life. So, when they had this dilemma – Kavod haTorah vs. Kibbud Av v’Em, Kavod haTorah won out. This is the first observation.

2. The other observation is recognizing how much a person can accomplish with a single minute. That one minute in the lives of Korach’s sons, in which they were overcome with Kavod haTorah, saved their lives, and – as the Ramban says – they were considered tzadikim as a result of that. Shmuel haNavi descended from them. All because of that action expressing Kavod haTorah to Moshe Rabbeinu, which transpired in one minute! That is what a person can accomplish with one minute.

We frequently mention the Gemara, “A person can acquire his world in a single moment.” (Avodah Zarah 10b) A single moment can change a person’s life, but unfortunately it cuts both ways. That which a person might do or say in one minute can cause him irreversible eternal damage as well.

How long do you think the whole story of Korach took? The whole story took place in less than a single day. How do we know that? The pasuk says that Korach had a complaint against Moshe Rabbeinu which led him to start a rebellion. Moshe responded to Korach “(Come) morning and Hashem will make known who belongs to Him…” (Bamidbar 16:5). Rashi notes: Why the emphasis on “morning”? This argument started in the evening. Why did Moshe wait until the next morning to put an end to it?

Rashi explains that Moshe’s motivation was that maybe they would sleep on it overnight and change their minds. He stated that the afternoon was a time of drunkenness, not an appropriate time for reaching momentous decisions.

What happened? On the contrary, Korach engaged his followers with mockery of Moshe the entire night. (Does a house that is full of sefarim need a mezuzah? Does a garment that is entirely techeiles require tzisis?) The earth swallowed Korach and his followers the next morning.

Korach was a tzadik, a very prestigious individual. Yet his whole life went down the tube in less than 24 hours. Consider a tale of two categories of people: The Bnei Korach changed in less than one minute. They had a hirhur teshuva. They decided to honor Moshe Rabbeinu. They got a grip on themselves and saved their lives and the lives of their descendants in one minute. Korach let it go all down the drain in less than 24 hours.

A person can acquire his world in a moment, and a person can destroy his world in a moment. This is a scary thought.

Holiness and Machlokes Have Nothing to Do With Each Other

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 110a) says that the wife of Ohn ben Peles (one of the co-conspirators of Korach listed at the beginning of the parsha (Bamidbar 16:1) but not later on) saved him from utter destruction. She came to her husband and said, “Listen here. You have nothing to gain out of this. Regardless of whoever comes out on top here, you will just be second or third or fourth fiddle. Either Moshe Rabbeinu will come out on top and you will stay in the same position or Korach will come out on top and you will stay in the same position. What difference does it make to you?”

Ohn ben Peles (who was probably not the sharpest knife in the shed) responded. “Do you know what? You’re right. But I am already too far into this. How do I get out of it?” The famous Gemara records the response of Mrs. Ohn ben Peles. “Don’t worry. I will take care of you.” She got her husband drunk with wine until he fell asleep. When the band of Korach’s followers came around to pick up Ohn ben Peles, his wife sat by the door of her house and uncovered the hair of her head.

Korach’s followers saw this woman sitting by the door with her hair uncovered. They could not proceed any further into the house so they immediately went on their way. That is how she saved Ohn ben Peles.

The sefer Siach Yaakov brings two observations, which, in a sense, are contradictory.

Observation #1: Note the great level of the kedusha that resided in Am Yisrael at that time. People who were not fazed by the prospect of challenging the prophecy of Moshe Rabbeinu as the nation’s leader, nevertheless, would not approach a woman who was immodestly dressed.

Observation #2: Note the great power of machlokes. People who are so holy that they don’t want to look at an immodestly dressed woman, are nevertheless willing to go ahead and fight with Moshe Rabbeinu. In other words, when even the holiest Jews get involved in machlokes, nothing else counts.

Sometimes Speeches Don’t Help

My final observation has to do with this week’s Haftorah. The Haftorah for Parshas Korach is Shmuel I 11:14 – 12:22. The people come to Shmuel asking for a king. Shmuel lambasts them. He challenges the people to name an incident where he ever cheated any of them or took anything from them. The people were forced to admit that he never oppressed them or took anything from them. They confessed that Shmuel had always been honest with them.

Why is this the Haftorah for Parshas Korach?

This is the Haftorah for Parshas Korach because there is a similar pasuk in our Parsha. “This distressed Moshe greatly and he said to Hashem: ‘Do not turn to their gift offering. I have not taken the donkey of any of them, nor have I wronged even one of them.'” (Bamidbar 16:15) This is the parallel.

But the question must be asked: If Shmuel makes the speech to the people and the speech convinces them and they need to admit that Shmuel was right that he never took anything from them, why didn’t Moshe Rabbeinu make the same speech to the people (he only expressed his frustration to Hashem in the above cited pasuk)? It worked for Shmuel. The people confessed that he was right. Why would the same speech not also work for Moshe? Why did he feel that he needed this miracle of the land opening up and swallowing them to put down this rebellion?

The difference between these two situations is that Shmuel was not dealing with a machlokes. When people are not involved in a machlokes it is possible to reason with them. You can then speak to the people and make a case to them. But Moshe Rabbeinu was dealing with rebellion – an open machlokes. When people are acrimonious, they are not reasonable. A person can make the most powerful and eloquent speeches but they will fall on deaf ears. It is like people’s brains shut off. Or perhaps their ears shut off. Something shuts off.

Shmuel HaNavi was dealing with people to which he could still speak. He could make a speech: “Who’s donkey have I taken?” Moshe Rabbeinu was dealing with disputants in a machlokes. In that situation, speeches don’t help. The only thing that helps is opening the earth and swallowing them. That is the distinction between Moshe Rabbeinu’s situation and that of Shmuel HaNavi.

Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]

Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]

This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Korach is provided below:

  • 017 – Visiting the Sick
  • 062 – May the State of Israel Extradite a Jewish Criminal?
  • 106 – The Temple Mount Today-Obligations & Restrictions
  • 151 – The Mitzvah of Pidyon Haben: Some Fascinating Facts
  • 198 – The Ethiopian Jewry Question
  • 244 – Tachanun
  • 288 – “Masiach L’fi Tumoh”: The Coca Cola Question
  • 334 – Leaving a Chasunah Before Benching
  • 378 – Truth Telling to Patients
  • 422 – Bais Din’s Power to Subpoena
  • 466 – Tachanun: To Say Or Not To Say
  • 510 – Pidyon Habein and Vending Machines
  • 554 – The Kohain and the First Aliyah
  • 598 – Siamese Twins
  • 642 – Different Minhagim for Saying Kedusha
  • 686 – Ma’alin B’Kodesh V’ain Moridin
  • 730 – Divergent Minhagim in One Shul
  • 774 – Tachanun: Most Fascinating Insights
  • 818 – Bikur Cholim on Shabbos
  • 862 – Preventative Medicine To Avoid Chilul Shabbos
  • 906 – Tachanun Without a Sefer Torah?
  • 950 – Pidyon Habein: Not Your Regular Cases
  • 993 – Pidyon Habein Without A Bris Milah?
  • 1037 – Should A Chosson Come To Shul During Sheva Brachos?
  • 1081 – Ha’arama: Halachic Loopholes – Advisable or Not?
  • 1124 – Segulos for Refuos
  • 1166 – Do You Really Need Ten for a Minyan?
  • 1209 – The Chasam Sofer’s Battle Against the Reform Movement
  • 1254 – Why Shouldn’t You Park In a Handicap Space?
  • 1298 – The Shul That Did Not Say Tachanun By Mistake; Now What? and Other Tachanun Issues
  • 1342 – The Case of The Man Who Now Deines That He’s a Kohain
  • 1386 – The Importance and Power of Saying Parshas Ketores
  • 1430 – Should Chazanim be Paid?
  • 1474 – Tachanun on Mondays and Thursdays
  • 1518 – Should You Say Tachnun at Mincha?

A complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail [email protected] or visit for further information.