Bad Vibes, Good Vibes – Korach


In this week’s parsha we read about Korach and his עדה being swallowed up by the earth. The Mishna (Avot 5, 6) lists 10 things that were created בערב שבת בין השמשות.  The first one on the list is פי הארץ, the hole that swallowed Korach and his followers.

The question is - Why did HKB”H have to wait until the last minute, in the twilight hours, as Shabbat was coming in after the sixth day, to create these ten things? Why did He not create פי הארץ on the third day when Heaven and earth were created? Why did He not create פי הבאר, the Well of Miriam, on the second day when He separated the upper and lower waters? Why did He not create Bilam’s donkey, פי האתון, earlier on the sixth day when the other animals were created? etc. each in their allotted time?

Why squeeze all these things in just before Shabbat as if they were all an afterthought – “Oops, forgot the donkey……. Hang on a second, I’ll quickly create it!”??

So I want to tell you a tragic story.

There is a young widow I know, whose husband died and left her penniless with two orphan daughters and a small plot of land. Left with no family support, the young widow had to make a living, so she decided to grow grapes on the land and sell wine.  When she applied to the Rabbanut for a Hechsher, they told her – “Sorry, we cannot give a Hechsher for the wine because the grapes are grown too close to wheat which is also grown on the land and it is כלאיים.” “But we have to eat. The wheat is to make our bread!” The poor widow replied. Without a Hechsher, there was no chance she could sell the wine, so the poor widow had to rip out the wheat, their food. After she started making wine, the mashgiach from the Rabbanut put in an official complaint that the wine was being bottled by a Philippine worker (who was boarding with them and working for his keep) and thus the wine was considered יין נסך. “The bottling is heavy labor and my daughters and I cannot do it alone”, the poor widow replied in desperation. The Rabbanut was unbudging. The poor widow had no choice but to rip up all the grape vines and grow wheat on the land instead, to make into bread and sell. As she was mixing the dough the mashgiach arrived and said, “Hang on – before you make the bread, I have to take Challah!” and he removed a huge chunk of the dough. ”Also”, he said, “You have to mark on the bread that it is baked in an oven that is בחזקת בשר”. “But we only have one oven, which we also use to cook our food”, the poor widow replied. With a label like that on the bread, sales were poor and the widow eventually had to close the bakery and sell the land to cover her debts. With the little money she had left, she bought 3 cows so they could make the milk into cheese and sell. Again the mashgiach came around and said “This milk has to labeled חלב נכרי because it is milked by the Philippine worker”. “But I have back problems and cannot bend to milk the cows and my daughters are too young”, the desperate widow replied. “Sorry we cannot give a Hechsher for חלב נכרי” said the mashgiach. “There is no way I can win with these people”, the poor widow replied. She decided to slaughter the cows so that at least they would have a reserve of food for a year to eat and then ה' ירחם. The shochet told her, “Sorry these cows have a מום and are passul for שחיטה. The only thing you can do is slaughter them for animal feed (a pittance)”. The poor widow and her two orphan daughters were left penniless.

It’s a terrible story! The only thing is …….it is not true, it is all a fabrication!

According to the Midrash, the story above (which is highly paraphrased) was told by Korach to an audience he assembled. It was a huge “bash”, with food and drink and then Korach launched into the “entertainment” part of the evening, the above story. The “stand-up comedian” Korach added just the right touches of comic and tragic relief to elicit the required response from his audience. The purpose of it was to make Moshe and Aharon look ridiculous, like they were a bunch of nefarious, merciless criminals – making up regulations as they go, for the purpose of swindling people. And it worked! Korach managed to obtain the support of the twelve נשיאים – the same נשיאים we read about in parshat Naso, who brought korbanot for חנוכת המשכן – including Nachshon ben Aminadav who was the first to jump into the Red Sea causing it to split!

Chazal tell us that Korach was an extremely wealthy man. Back in Egypt, the Levi’im (like Korach) were the only population group in Am Yisrael who were not enslaved by Pharaoh. When Pharaoh decreed that Am Yisrael had to make their own bricks, Korach saw a golden business opportunity and opened a brick factory. If someone did not fill their quota of bricks that day, they were punished. Pharaoh would take their children and cement them into the foundations of the building (nice guy). If for any reason someone could not make enough bricks, they had a stop gap – they could go to Korach’s brick “gamach” and supplement their quota – except it wasn’t a gamach – Korach charged money for the bricks! Thus he became extremely wealthy, Chazal say even more wealthy than Am Yisrael who gathered the loot of the Egyptians as it floated up after Yam Suf (the Levi’im were not allowed to gather loot).

Not only was Korach filthy rich, he was also a person of incredible wisdom and spiritual stature. He was one of the people who bore the Aron Habrit! The Mefarshim say that the  passuk in Tehilim (55, 15) אשר יחדו נמתיק סוד is referring to Aharon HaKohen and Korach, that they were both equivalent in spiritual stature!

Korach was certainly not lacking money, nor was he lacking recognition. So what prompted him to launch into this “vendetta” against Moshe and Aharon? What could he possibly hope to gain from it that he did not already have? Where did this hatred come from? What was the root of the dispute between Korach, Moshe and Aharon that led to this?

The Midrash reveals the heart of the matter.

As he was very wealthy, Korach treated his wife to a lavish lifestyle. She wore the finest clothes and had gold, diamond-studded bracelets and jewelry up both arms. Anyone who saw her in the street would look at her in admiration and wonder.

Then came חטא העגל and Moshe shattered the first two Luchot. HKB”H commanded Moshe to carve two new Luchot from the most precious stone in existence, called סנפריון (some Mefarshim say was sapphire). HKB”H granted Moshe all the left-over shards of the stone as a gift. Moshe, who was devoid of any materialism, did not realize the value of these stones, they just looked pretty. So he gave them to Oholiav, who was an expert stone setter (who set the stones in the Choshen) to make into a necklace, a gift for his wife Tzipporah. When Oholiav saw these stones he was taken aback by their beauty.

Now, whenever Tzipporah was out in public wearing this radiant necklace, all attention that was previously directed towards Korach’s wife, was now focused on Tzipporah, which gave rise to intense feelings of jealousy from Korach’s wife towards Tzipporah.

After the Levi’im were inducted to work in the Mishkan, Korach returned from the induction ceremony completely bald! After she stopped laughing at his ridiculous appearance, Rabbanit Korach asked her husband what had happened to him. Korach replied that Aharon had shaved all the hair off all the Levi’im and “waved” them all around in the air! Korach’s wife said that the purpose of such a thing was to make Korach and the Levi’im look silly (she conveniently ignored the fact that Moshe, a Levi himself, was also shaved). The seeds of insidious jealousy against Tzipporah, were transferred by extension also to Moshe and הוי דן כל האדם לכף זכות totally went out the window. There was nothing Tzipporah or Moshe could now do that was right in her eyes and she hatched a campaign of revenge.

Continually stirring and provoking her husband to think ill of Moshe, Rabbanit Korach was the one to suggest he wear a completely Techelet Tallit to the beit midrash and challenge Moshe’s teaching about the Techelet thread in the Tzitzit. This constant undercurrent in their home eventually took its toll and the result was Korach felt deprived and thus instigated his attempted coup against Moshe and Aharon. It all began in his own home, with his jealous wife.

In our parsha we have mention of another wife, the wife of On ben Pelet from the Tribe of Reuven. As part of his rebellion, Korach recruited various factions in Am Yisrael who had a “beef” with Moshe and Aharon. The Tribe of Reuven, until now the Bechorim, those originally given the task of doing the Avodah, were now “supplanted” by the Kohanim. On ben Pelet’s wife was pretty smart. She realized that it didn’t matter who won the dispute, Moshe or Korach, her husband was never going to merit the task of doing the Avodah, it would either remain with Aharon, or be given to Korach if he won.

Moshe, appalled by this attack on his authority and validity, scheduled a “Ketoret duel” the following day, to resolve the conflict. Aharon would hold a מחתה with Ketoret, as would Korach and each of his followers and Hashem would decide the matter by either accepting or rejecting the offering. 

The night before, On ben Pelet’s wife gave her husband more wine to drink than normal and he overslept the following morning. She sat outside their tent with her hair uncovered. When On did not show up, Korach sent people to fetch him. Even though these followers of Korach were rebelling against Moshe, there was no way they were going to interact with a married woman with her hair uncovered, (the stature of the Dor HaMidbar is unfathomable to us today - see my shiur on Shlach), so they did an about-turn and as a result On ben Pelet was not present when Korach and his followers were swallowed up.

Chazal contrast the behavior of the two wives Rabbanit Korach and Rabbanit On ben Pelet in the passuk in Mishlei (14, 1) חַכְמוֹת נָשִׁים בָּנְתָה בֵיתָהּ וְאִוֶּלֶת בְּיָדֶיהָ תֶהֶרְסֶנּוּ.   On ben Pelet’s wife’s wisdom helped to save and build her home, whereas the misguided actions of Korach’s wife destroyed hers.

A hint to this may be found in the first passuk in the parsha. The gematriya of "קרח, דתן, אבירם, און" is "כי אשה יפת מראה".

Chazal tell us that if you want to understand a matter, you have to look for the root of the matter. The root of the matter with Korach was not wealth or power, it was jealousy. It originated in his own home, with his wife.

But if you are looking for the true root, you need to look a few generations back, to another wife – the first wife in history, Chava. Was Chava a good “vayb” (wife in Yiddish) or a bad “vayb”?

When HKB”H created Chava from Adam Harishon’s rib, He braided her hair and acting as the Shoshvin, presented her to Adam, as it were, under the Chuppah. They were living in the perfect bridal suite, Gan Eden, the epitome of perfection. But not everything was perfect in “paradise”, there were some “kinks” in the perfection. There was a tree that did not obey HKB”H’s command. There was a husband that was “slow” to obey HKB”H’s commands (Meir Panim פרק טו), including פרו ורבו. Thinking she could speed things up, Chava decided to squeeze grapes and give her husband wine to drink, because everyone knows ויין ישמח לבב אנוש. Instead of solving the problem, it put Adam to sleep. While he was sleeping off the hangover the נחש stepped into the “vacuum” and the debacle with the עץ הדעת, the imperfect tree, took place.

OK, so the נחש tricked her into it and her husband was not exactly the “model citizen” – she is not entirely to blame for the debacle, there were other parties also involved.

Either way, Chava has now eaten from the עץ הדעת, she has disobeyed HKB”H’s commandment not to eat from it and she is no longer immortal, she has a lifespan…… and she also now has דעת טוב ורע, something she never had before. She is now faced with a choice – to take responsibility for her actions and to let the matter end there, or not.

Rashi tells us that she was not prepared to let it end there. Chava now thought to herself – my husband is still immortal, I am eventually going to die. This means that Adam will marry someone else. This was the first case of jealousy in history - it was the root of all jealousy and was a side effect of eating from the עץ הדעת. This jealousy – even though the “new wife” scenario had not yet transpired, it would probably have taken another few hundred years to come about - already insidiously ate at Chava and dictated her further actions.  “The only way to prevent Adam from marrying another woman is to make him mortal like me”. She did so by giving her husband to eat from the tree. The passuk in Mishlei above also applies to Chava.

 This is what the Mishna (Avot 4, 21) means when it says הקנאה והתאוה והכבוד מוציאין את האדם מן העולם. The nusach of the Mishna is strange. It should say מוציאין אדם מן העולם. What does האדם mean? It does not mean “man” in general, but “the man” a specific man, Adam Harishon.

The חטא עץ הדעת was not part of the original plan. The fact that it happened necessitated certain modifications to be made. If you examine the timeline (see my shiur on Shlach) of what occurred on the sixth day, you will see that the חטא עץ הדעת occurred right at the end of the day, in the twilight hours, just as Shabbat was coming in. HKB”H had to create ten things that were not originally intended (or He would have created them on their appropriate days) to fix the damage that had been caused by the חטא עץ הדעת and the subsequent damage it would cause in later generations. (Update 2023: Although התעוררתי to this idea in תשפ"ב, I could not find a source. שמחתי שמחה גדולה today כב' סיון תשפ"ג, to find a source - Reb Aharon Hagadol from Karlin in sefer Beit Aharon brings this idea).

The first thing on the list was פי הארץ. The downfall of Adam Harishon was the result of jealousy, whose seeds had been sown in Gan Eden and they were catastrophically repeated when the world was “re-created” at Matan Torah, with Korach and his wife. The antidote to that was instituted already back then, ערב שבת בין השמשות – to eradicate the destructive power of jealousy from Am Yisrael.

On the other hand we have the good “vayb”, Rabbanit On ben Pelet, whose every action was כפרה for Chava. She gave her husband wine to drink, like Chava did, but here it was to save her husband, not to lead to his destruction. She bared her hair, like Chava bared her braided hair for the נחש and engaged in a dialogue with him, but here it was to save her husband On ben Pelet from being swallowed up in Korach and his wife’s jealousy.

One of the things that had to be “modified” בערב שבת בין השמשמות was Bilam’s donkey. What has that got to do with חטא עץ הדעת? The whole episode of Bilam and Balak had a single solitary purpose – to give rise to Rut and the lineage of David Hamelech, the Mashiach.

When the world was created, there was no need for Mashiach – the world was already in the state of Mashiach. Only when Adam and Chava sinned did it become necessary to modify the creation to include Mashiach, the ultimate antidote to the חטא עץ הדעת, בבי"א.

Contact Us
Click here to change code. Please enter code in the box below.
22 HaHadas Street, Karnei Shomron, 4485500, Israel
Machon Lechem Hapanim
תפנית בניית אתרים
תפנית: בניית אתרים | עיצוב אתרים | קידום אתרים | 054-4780798 --
Processing request....