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Monday, Sivan 30, 5780 / June 22, 2020


Today is the first day Rosh Chodesh Tammuz. This week’s Parsha is Parshat Korach. The Parsha begins with the argument (“Machlokes”) of Korach and his people against Moshe and Aaron. It is the third Parsha in a row in which we read how the Jewish people argued against Moshe.


In Parshat Bha’alotcha we read how they argued against Moshe about the manna which they ate day after day. They also wanted fish and vegetables. In Parshat Shlach they argued against Moshe refusing to go into the Promised Land. In this week’s Parsha, Korach argued against Moshe out of jealousy for taking the leadership positions for himself and Aaron, not giving Korach a leadership position.    


This unfortunate argument resulted in the deaths of Korach, who was swallowed into the earth, and the 250 people who were with him were burnt in a heavenly fire.


This argument brought another argument against Moshe and Aaron which resulted in the deaths of 14,700 people who died as a result of a plague.  Thus, close to 15,000 Jewish people lost their lives as a result of Korach’s rebellion against Moshe and Aaron.


Indeed one of the 613 mitzvot is the prohibition to sustain an argument.  This prohibition is derived from this week’s Parsha, "And you shall not be like Korach and his company (Numbers 17:5)."


Q. How is it that the Talmud is full of arguments amongst our greatest sages?  Jewish law is full of different rabbinical opinions almost on every subject?


A. The Mishna in Pirkei Avot (Chapter of our Fathers) says, “Any dispute that is for the sake of Heaven (i.e. for the sake of G-d), will have a constructive outcome; but one which is not for the sake of Heaven will not have a constructive outcome.”  The Mishna continues, “What sort of dispute was for the sake of Heaven? – The dispute between Hillel and Shamai (two great Talmudic sages).  And which was not for the sake of Heaven? – The dispute between Korach and his entire company.”  


Here lies the difference between these disputes.  The argument between Hillel and Shamai was an argument for the sake of Heaven. But Korach and his people’s argument against Moshe was a dispute for personal gain.

When the argument is for the “sake of Heaven,” both parties are interested only in discovering the truth.  Each one is interested in the truth and if proven wrong will readily admit that the other is right.  Korach's rebellion against Moshe was only to achieve personal gain and glory, as a result of his jealousy of Moshe and Aaron. The outcome of Korach’s argument was a total loss for Korach and his colleagues. But the arguments of our great Talmudic sages are studied and revered to this day.