Korach was a man who had it all. He was so rich that it took 300 animals to carry the keys for his chests of gold and silver. He was an outstanding Torah scholar, a wise and learned man. He was the descendent of one of the most prestigious Jewish families, the sons of Kehat, who were given the special privilege of carrying the covers of the Ark. They were known for their Torah knowledge and warranted these privileges. Additionally, Korach was on intimate terms with both Moshe, the leader of the entire Bnei Yisroel, and his brother Aharon, the Kohain Gadol.
By contrast, one of Korach's followers, a man by the name of Ohn ben Pelet, was none of these. The Torah mentions nothing by which Ohn ben Pelet was distinguished. Ohn ben Pelet was neither particularly clever nor highborn. It is therefore surprising that each of their lives took such an unexpected turn. In fact, the fates of Korach and Ohn ben Pelet were the exact opposite of what one might anticipate!
The well-connected and intellectually gifted Korach met a bitter end. Not only did he bring himself to ruin, but hundreds of his followers met with the same fate. On the other hand, Ohn ben Pelet was saved, together with his entire family. Indeed, he was the only follower of Korach who escaped punishment.
What was the reason for these different outcomes? None other than the conduct of their respective wives, and the influence they wielded over their husbands.
Korach had a wife who fueled his resentment and humiliation over his secondary status. This led Korach to instigate a rebellion against Moshe and Aharon, for which the earth swallowed him and his 250 followers. In contrast, On ben Pelet's wife advised him not to participate in Korach's insurrection and at the very last second, his wife rescued her entire family from destruction. Her unseemly actions saved her husband from the same end as Korach and his 250 followers. His wife was a true "Akeret Habayit" (mainstay of the home), the embodiment of the highest ideals of Jewish womanhood.
Korach's wife, by contrast, aided and abetted her husband and his group of rebels through her actions and words. Instead of being an Akeret Habayit, the main component and underlying foundation of the Jewish home, she chose to be an "O'keret Habayit," literally a woman who destroys and uproots her home.
Here's the Story.
Moshe had just been teaching the Bnei Yisroel about the Mitzvah of tzitzit.
So when Korach returned home and his wife asked him "What's new?" Korach replied, "Today Moshe taught us the Mitzvah of tzitzit, putting on fringes of blue-wool."
"What does this Mitzvah of blue wool mean?" asked his wife.
And Korach replied, "He told us that Hashem commanded that we place fringes on each of the corners of a four-cornered garment: three threads of white wool and one of techelet (blue) wool."
"He is playing games with you, that Moshe," said his wife. "Every day he comes to you with something new and says that Hashem has so commanded him. But it sounds to me like he's got a wild imagination." If blue wool is so magical that with one thread the obligation is fulfilled, let me make you a tallit (prayer shawl) entirely of blue-wool. Take it over to Moshe and ask him if a four-cornered garment dyed techelet blue requires tzitzit - fringes."
This was just the beginning! She reminded Korach that Moshe made his brother Aharon the Kohain Gadol and his nephews as Kohanim. Where does the Terumah go? To the Kohanim. The Leviyim only receive the scrawny Maaser portions. And a tenth of that goes back to the Kohanim!
"If that is not enough, he ridicules you. Didn't he force all the Leviyim to shave the hair from their heads? And what about when he and his brother Aharon lifted each and every Levi and shook them like a lulav in all directions? Surely that was meant to ridicule and humiliate you!"
Korach finally gave in to his wife's arguments and decided to challenge Moshe. All that night Korach walked around the camp. He wasn't recognizable, since his hair was completely shaven off, moustache, beard and lashes. When anyone asked him why he was clean-shaven, he took the opportunity to complain about Moshe: "Moshe did this to me," he declared! "And not only to me, but to all the Leviyim. He also shook each of us as if we were lulavim. Meanwhile, his brother Aaron is all dressed up in fancy-shmancy outfits."
Korach convinced the men from Shevet Reuven to join him. That's where On ben Pelet of Shevet Reuven comes in. He's so impressed with Korach's words that he decides to go along with him. When On returned home, he tells his wife, "I have joined Korach in his fight against Moshe."
On's wife knows that Korach is evil. She tells her husband that he is being foolish for becoming involved in Korach's insurrection. "What do you gain by joining Korach? Even if he wins, he will take the leadership for himself and not share it with you. If Moses is the master and teacher, you are his student; and if Korach becomes the master and teacher, you will still be his student. You have nothing to gain by becoming involved in the quarrels of others."
On replies, "It is too late - I already swore to Korach that I would help him. I have already participated in the pep rally and have to show up for the main event. I swore to it, and you know that swearing falsely is a grave sin."
On's wife, however, is not deterred, and she assures her husband that she will take care of the situation. "I have a plan to save you, " she answers. "It will prevent them from coming to get you, and you will not have to violate your oath."
That evening, On's wife proceeds to mix strong wine into her husband's drink until he becomes intoxicated. He immediately falls into a deep, heavy sleep.
Knowing that the zealous members of Korach's band would not approach to look at a married woman grooming her uncovered hair, she sits at the entrance of her tent, lets her hair down and begins to comb it.
Korach's people come to take her husband to Korach's gathering. When they see On's wife sitting there combing her hair, they immediately turn around and leave. Korach sends a second set of messengers to get On. But they, too, won't come close because of On's wife. So when later, Korach and his band are swallowed up by the earth, On ben Peleth is saved.
This story teaches us the critically important role that a wife plays and the extent to which her behavior affects her husband and family. Korach's wife incited him to revolt against Moshe. On's wife saved her husband from a terrible mistake.
Of this wife who acted with intelligence to keep her home intact, and who applied wisdom to save her husband, King Solomon says in Proverbs (14:1), "The wisdom of women builds her house." On the other hand, of Korach's wife, King Solomon continues
, "But folly plucks it down with her hands." For by her evil advice, his wife caused the ruination of her own home and led to the destruction of Korach and his entire party.
As an afterthought, what did incite Korach to challenge Moshe and Aharon? Indeed, our Sages characterize his behavior as "shtus," an act of sheer stupidity.
Korach made his final decision because of one big blunder. Korach had a vision of his future descendants. One of these descendants was Shmuel HaNavi, (Samuel the prophet). This was the source of his downfall. Korach assumed that if he was destined to have such a holy descendant, then his suspicions about Moshe must be correct. There was just one thing the vision left out
as the earth was about to swallow Korach's entire family, his sons realized their mistake and repented. Hashem spared them from Korach's unearthly fate. They lived to have children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, whose descendants included Shmuel HaNavi.
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