"The wisdom of women builds her house" (Mishlei
14:1). Say Chazal, this refers to the wife of Ohn ben Peles,
who rescued her husband (from Korach's fate) by arguing:
What difference does it make to you whether Moshe is the
leader and you are his follower, or Korach is the leader and
you are his follower?
Korach had various ideological arguments which are brought
in the different midroshim and works of the
rishonim and acharonim. None of them claim
that Korach blatantly declared that he wished to be the
leader. Had he said this outright, he would never have
succeeded in gathering about him a group of two hundred and
fifty heads of courts, such a solid following of
distinguished people who listened avidly to his lofty
thoughts, all for the sake of Heaven, as it were.
When Ohn ben Peles came home all afire with the flames of
dissent, he surely presented the idealistic arguments that
Korach had aired out against Moshe Rabbenu. And if this was
so, we cannot help being surprised at the reaction of his
wife, who asked very simply, "What difference does it make
to you, personally, in the long run? If Moshe is the leader,
you are no more than his follower. And if Korach is right,
you are still no more than a hanger-on, so why get involved
in the controversy?"
Indeed, what kind of an answer is this to an ideological
challenge? How could her pragmatic approach have doused the
flames of her husband's righteous indignation when they did
not address the issues that disturbed him? She totally
ignored the arguments he presented, circumvented them with a
very cold, logical, realistic approach: What difference does
all this make to you, anyway?
His reaction should naturally have been: What do you
mean, what difference does it make? Is that what I asked?
Did I involve my personal interest in this matter at all? I
am talking purely about the contention between the two
leaders; I have nothing to do with it. I am not an
interested party, either way. Is that what you take me for,
a person who only has his own interests at heart? I am
disturbed by the fact that Moshe this and Moshe that . . .
How can you be so selfish and single-minded as to think that
all I have in mind is my own welfare in every issue? It is
the issue itself that I care about, not my personal interest
in the matter! Your argument is totally irrelevant to the
topic, it is altogether beside the point.
HaGaon R' Refoel Tikochinsky zt'l points out that she
really was clever in her thrust. It was her feminine wisdom
that built and preserved her home. She, a perceptive woman,
listened carefully to everything he had to say, to all of
the pros and cons that were ostensibly "for the sake of
Heaven," that is, ideological, to all of his reasons why
some action had to be taken to set things straight and take
sides against Moshe Rabbenu.
She heard him out to the very end, as a wise person must do,
to listen to the words and the pauses, to glean the meaning
behind the words that were spoken and those that were left
unspoken. And she arrived at a very true and perceptive
conclusion that what propelled this entire controversy was
the basic issue of honor and jealousy. This was no
ideological dissension. Rather the lofty talk was a mere
cover-up for the underlying base faults in Korach's makeup,
the desire for honor and the hatred stemming from envy and
She got down to the crux of the matter. She shook off all
the dust, removed the veil of sanctimony that shrouded the
issue and put her very finger on the single point that had
caused this controversy to erupt in the beginning. It was a
personal matter, not a holy war. It was a question of self
interest, of gain. A war of profit. And if so, what business
did he have mingling in it: he had nothing to gain in this
war, for either way, he would still remain a tail end, a
lackey, so why choose to be the hanger-on by Korach? Why get
unnecessarily involved when it made no difference,
personally, to him? The perceptive wisdom of women . . .
Actually, the entire company of Korach's two hundred and
fifty followers, prestigious heads of Sanhedrin
courts, could have arrived at this identical conclusion as
well. But when Chazal stated the rule that envy and pride
remove a person from this world, stresses R' Refoel, the
meaning is not only for the future, the eventual bitter end
that awaits people who suffer from the weaknesses of pride
and jealousy, but the downfall is already in the very
present as well. As soon as a person succumbs to these bad
traits, he is already stricken down; he loses his human form
and norm. He can no longer think rationally and logically;
he leaves the society of normal human beings and becomes a
When Hashem admonished Yerovom for his evil deeds, He urged
him, "Retract [repent], and I and you and the son of Yishai
will stroll together in Gan Eden." Thereupon, Yerovom asked,
"And who will go first?" When Hashem replied, "Ben Yishai
will be first," Yerovom replied, "If so, I won't have any
part of it." (Sanhedrin 102). Where is the logic
here? Where is the wisdom, the common sense?
The answer is: this is not the question, for when a person
is struck by a wave of jealousy, he is removed from the
world. He loses his power of reasoning, his sense of
proportion, his right mind. He can no longer think straight.
No better proof than the daily rivalries, battles,
controversies that erupt over matters that make absolutely
no sense, reactions that are totally out of proportion to
the issues and that don't even begin to be relevant!
It was only in the end of the matter that Moshe performed
the heavenly sign with the staffs whereby the staff of
Aharon budded and produced ripe almonds. Why didn't he do
this portent right at the beginning of the outbreak? Would
this not have silenced Korach and his company at the very
onset and prevented the entire happening?
The answer is that so long as envy is at work, nothing else
will help. Neither arguments "black on white" nor anything
rational and convincing will be effective for the die is
already cast and envy is already at work: Beware. Only after
the afflicted ones were swallowed up in the ground or burned
was it possible to talk sense to the people and to prove the
righteousness of Hashem. Only then, "And they believed in
Hashem and in Moshe His servant."