Parashat Korah begins as Korah, from the tribe of Levi, went aside with Datan, Abiram and On Ben Pelet along with 250 leaders of B'nei Yisrael to confront Moshe and Aharon: "Vayiahalu al moshe v'al aharon vayom'ru alehem rav lachem!"..."And they gathered together against Moshe and against Aharon and said to them, You take too much upon yourselves!" They went on to say, "We are all Holy and Hashem is with all of us, so why do you exalt yourselves over this congregation of Hashem?"
Korah was considered to be one of the greatest men of that generation, but he had a flaw in his character that would bring him and many others down, including his entire family. Korah understood that Hashem had picked Moshe as the leader of B'nei Yisrael. Then Korah watched as Moshe appointed his brother Aharon to be the Kohen Gadol, but when Moshe then appointed his younger cousin Elizaphan Ben Uziel in charge of the Kohathite family, which made him even greater than Korah!
This disturbed Korah greatly and he became very jealous as his kavod was affected. He directed his anger at Moshe as if he made these appointments. We know that it was Hashem that was in control of who to appoint and was directing Moshe on all these moves.
It says in Pirke Avot (4:28): "Rabbi Elazar Hakappar said: Jealousy (Kinah), Lust (Taavah), and Honor (Kavod) remove a man from this world. When we see people acting in a manner that seems appalling to us, it is often because their Kavod has been ruffled. People can engage in long-lasting vendettas against others whom they think have infringed on their honor. As we get older, the tendency to give in to a sense of one’s own due honor grows stronger, and we must be more careful not to let it get the better of us.
The Rabbi's explain that Korah was planning to wait until they were in the Land of Israel to confront this issue but after the spies’ reports, and the response of the people, Hashem punished B'nei Yisrael with forty additional years of wandering in the desert so Korah couldn't wait any longer. He then rallied up the 250 leaders to accuse Moshe of setting himself and others above the people. In other episodes in the Torah, Moshe always prayed to Hashem on behalf of B'nei Yisrael but in this story Moshe asked Hashem to make a dramatic punishment against Korah and those that sided with him.
Moshe asked this of Hashem because by Korah attacking his credibility the way that he did, he was in essence attacking the validity of the Torah. This episode of Korah had to set an important precedent for all the future generations not to attack the Torah's validity until this very day in order to show that the Torah is Emmet, Moshe is Emmet and all that stems from Hashem is Emmet!
Or Hahayyim comments that Moshe never wanted to be the leader of the Jewish people and when Hashem instructed him to give the job of Kohen Gadol to Aharon and his family, he neither asked for those assignments nor desired it in his heart! Moshe pointed out to Korah that these decisions had not been his to make. Rabbi Frand says that their are a number of sins associated with Mahloket (divisiveness), such as slander, jealousy and hatred, causing others public humiliation and embarrassment, but the core evil of Mahloket is the obsessive need to win!
The argument may have begun over something small but as time lapses it grows out of control and takes on a life of its own. It can cause enormous rifts within families, rifts that go on for years. Sometimes no one even remembers how the rift began. We must remember that Hashem runs the world and therefore Mahloket ultimately goes against Hashem! One very important thing we learn from this Perashah is that Mahloket is probably the worst thing that we as a people can get involved with.
There are times, believe it or not, when argument is good, but this is only when its L'Shem Shamayim (for the sake of Heaven). In the Gemara the great Rabbis argue about every detail of life and how we should proceed in accordance with the rulings of Hashem, but these arguments are in pursuit of the Emmet, and is done with love and respect for one another.
The Midrash tells us that when the mob led by Korah stopped by the home of On Ben Pelet in order to recruit him, his wife took off her head covering to scare them away, and thereby saved her husband’s life. She knew that Mahloket was something to be avoided, and she said to her husband, "What good would come out of this dispute and what benefit would it bring to you? If you win, then Korah wins and you are in the same position as before, and if they lose, it’s even worse!"
The Rabbi's teach us that the wisest man of all, King Solomon called her a most brilliant woman. Yet to me, this just seems like common sense. Sometimes we get so caught up in divisiveness that we lose our common sense, and this can have very destructive consequences.
The Mishnah refers on this Mahloket as "Korah and his followers", but the Mahloket is really between Korah and Moshe. The Torah is teaching us that Korah was not seeking truth or the best interest of the people, but rather he was seeking to put Moshe down merely to raise his own status and receive the Kavod that he felt was due him which he had been deprived of.
To teach us about the rewards of avoiding Mahloket, Rabbi Frand tells a story about two neighbors. Joe had his newspaper delivered to his home each morning but he noticed that it was coming crinkled and used. He watched early one morning and he noticed his neighbor Steve take the newspaper and return it a half hour later to his front door. Joe confronted Steve, who refused to admit that he was doing anything wrong, accusing Joe instead that he was practicing the midot of Sedom by not sharing his newspaper with him.
Joe was indignant and asked his Rabbi to intervene by giving him permission to take his neighbor to a Bet Din. His Rabbi answered, "You may not like what I have to say but my advice is that you should call up the newspaper and buy your neighbor Steve a subscription of his own." Joe was indeed unhappy with the apparent injustice of the situation, but he decided to follow his Rabbi's advice. Years later he admitted that this was the best advice, because from then on he had a better relationship with his neighbor and of course now his newspaper arrived daily in good condition.
The Hafetz Hayyim says that maintaining Shalom is a big Mitzvah, and everyone should have a discretionary fund, or a "Shalom Fund", designated for the purpose of avoiding Mahloket! This will go a long way towards creating a peaceful environment for all of us and within all of K'lal Yisrael.
In the Gemara (Berachot 58a) we read: "She-en daatam domeh zeh lazeh, v'en partzufehen domim zeh lazeh". "No two faces are alike, and no two opinions are alike". We do not have identical faces, therefore why should we expect to have identical views, perceptions and thoughts? Keeping this profound teaching in mind would go a long way in helping us avoid conflict and divisiveness.
May we all learn from this Perashah to keep the feeling, that if we think we may be due some special Kavod, to keep it in check. This will keep us far away from acting with Gaava (haughtiness) which will ultimately and inevitably lead to Mahloket. May we also step back and try, when we have a difference of opinion with others, whether in our families or professions, to look at the situation from their perspective, so that we can find a harmonious solution that satisfies both sides. Amen!