Halacha for Friday 29 Sivan 5784 July 5 2024

Parashat Korach

From the teachings of Maran Rebbeinu Ovadia Yosef ztvk”l
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)

A Wife Like On ben Pelet’s and not a Wife Like Korach’s! And Understanding the Meaning of “Mizmor LeAsaf”

In this week's Parashah we will read that Korach was a Levi and argued against Moshe Rebbeinu and rabble roused a group against him, until [as a punishment] the ground swallowed Korach and all his followers.

It is stated in Mishlei (14:1), “The wise among women, each builds her house, but the foolish one tears it down with her hands”. Our chachamim explain, “The wise among women, each builds her house” this is On ben Pelet's wife, and “the foolish one tears it down with her hands” is Korach's wife.

What happened? Initially On ben Pelet joined Korach's group of strife which he generated against Moshe Rabbeinu, as the Torah tells us explicitly. However, afterwards, On ben Pelet's name isn't mentioned in association with Korach's group. Why? What happened?

Our chachamim explain that initially Korach didn't argue with Moshe Rabbeinu, but rather when Moshe Rabbeinu was instructed by Hashem to take the Leviim, “and shave them with a razor”, Korach listened to Moshe, and took a blade to his whole body including his beard. He came home and when his wife saw him, she said to him, “What a nonsense! What have you done?” He replied to her, “This is what Moshe Rabbeinu instructed!” She retorted, “Moshe? You believe that Hashem instructed that everyone should shave their beard? How can this be? You are a fool!” And she began to mock him. This happened a few more times until her words penetrated Korach's heart and he began to question Moshe's authority, this was out of hatred.

In contrast to this, On ben Pelet, his wife was a tzaddeket (righteous), she said to him, “Listen On, you know that everything that Korach does, he worries only about himself, he really wants to be the cohen gadol. Now think, if Moshe will be the master you will be the pupil, and if Korach will be the master you will still be the pupil. And if so why are you getting involved in this strife? What do you have to personally gain from strife with Moshe Rabbeinu, the man of Hashem?”

On replied to her, “But I swore allegiance to Korach that I will see it through with him until the end.” His wife said to him, “You swore? No problem, I release you from the oath!” He said to her, “What shall we do?” She replied to him, “Let’s eat first.” She served him food and gave him wine to drink and he became intoxicated until he became sleepy. She put him to bed where he fell asleep and she covered him with a blanket and he had a deep sleep.

In the meantime, Korach, Datan and Aviram arrived, and Moshe said what he said until the passuk states, “The earth opened its mouth, and swallowed them and their houses, along with all the men who were with Korach and their property” (Bamidbar 16:32). After this On awoke and asked them all, “What happened?” They told him that they all were swallowed alive and you were saved! On saw this and began to cry. He said, “How could I have done such a thing? How could I have associated with Korach? And this is why he was called “On” because in Hebrew this means a state of mourning, because he was distressed about this awful sin that he sinned with Korach.

Now On’s wife saved him, “The wise among women, each builds her house” but Korach’s wife caused him to be totally lost from the world “the foolish one tears it down with her hands”. To the extent that there is an opinion in Gemara that Korach and his coterie have no portion in the World to Come, as the passuk says, “They fell into the depths along with all that was theirs. The earth then covered them over, and they were lost to the community” (Bamidbar 16:33). “The earth then covered them over” in this world, “and they were lost to the community” in the World to Come.

The Gemara (Kiddushin) relates a story, Rebbi Avahu lived a long time, 92 years. Even in his old age he would go to the Bet HaMidrash. One day he returned home in the afternoon and was tired. He said to his son, whose name was Avimi, “Avimi bring me a cup of water to drink.”

Avimi said to him, “Father I am here, I will bring you the water immediately.” Avimi went to the nearby well, drew water, filled the cup and came to serve his father the water. But he saw that Rebbi Avahu had fallen asleep. He said to himself, what shall I do now? He stood and waited with the cup in his hand until his father woke up.

At that time, Avimi merited to a new revelation in understanding Torah. He was able to understand the passuk in Tehillim (79:1), “Mizmor (a song) of Asaf: Oh Hashem! The nations have entered into your inheritance, they have defiled the Sanctuary of Your Holiness, they have turned Yerushalayim into heaps of rubble.” Avimi was perplexed how can it state “Mizmor LeAsaf”? Is this a song, surely it should say “Kina LeAsaf” – “A Lamentation of Asaf”?

But he understood the following about Asaf who authored this Mizmor. But first, who is Asaf? He is Korach’s son. As the passuk states, “The sons of Korach were, Asir, Elkanah and Aviasaf” (Shemot 6:24), Aviasaf is Asaf mentioned in Tehillim. He had ruach hakodesh and initially he went with his father Korach. But at the time that the land was about to swallow up Korach and his coterie, Korach’s sons stood and beseeched Hashem, “Ribono shel Olam! Have mercy on us! Moshe is true and his Torah is true!” And a miracle happen to them and within the pit a ledge was created and they stood on it and were saved.

After they came out of it and were saved, Asaf stood up and grew spiritually until he attained the level of ruach hakodesh (Divine inspiration). Asaf was distressed, since at the end of the day Korach was his father and he was pained at what had happened to him.

In Gemara Bava Batra (75a) it is related that one of the great Amoraim (rabbis of the period of the Gemara) called Rabbah bar Channah (who was also most exceptional in matters of Kabbalah and the hidden secrets of the Torah) was travelling in the wilderness and an arab approached him, and it is possible that this was Eliyahu HaNavi. This arab said to him, “Do you wish to see the place of Korach?” Rabbah bar Channah listened and went with him and he showed him a place where smoke was coming out of and was very hot, there Korach was buried. Rabbah bar Channah listened and heard coming out of the pit the cries of men who were shouting, “Moshe is true and his Torah is true, and we are liars”.

Likewise with Asaf he also knew what happened to his father’s lot that he was judged for many generations with this harsh punishment. And he thought in his heart, who will save my father?

To what may the matter be compared? There was a king who was thirsty. He said to his maidservant, please bring me a glass of water. The maidservant went to the well, tied her earthenware jug to the rope and lowered it into the well. But the rope weakened and the jug fell. The maidservant sat and cried, for who will risk his life to the extent that he will retrieve her jug? Since for her the jug was very precious and therefore she sat and cried.

The king waited for his cup of water and when he saw that the maidservant had delayed in returning, he said to his daughter, “My daughter! Please get me a cup of water.” His daughter went to the well and she took her golden jug and tied it to the rope, but the knot came lose and the golden jug fell. The maidservant saw this and began to sing and dance from joy. She asked her, “What are you so happy about?” She replied, “Because of my earthenware jug, since for sure no one will retrieve it, but now that they will go down and get your golden jug, the person who will retrieve that golden jug will certainly bring up my earthenware jug. Therefore I am happy.”

Likewise thought Asaf, who will save father? He has no remedy. After that suddenly he saw with ruach hakodesh that King David alav hashalom wanted to build the Bet HaMikdash but Hashem didn’t allow him because he had waged many wars. Therefore King David only built the gates and invested a great deal in them. When the enemies came to destroy the Bet HaMikdash Hashem said, these gates are the handiwork of David my servant, how may I allow them to fall into the hands of these wicked people? Therefore they have sunk deeply into the ground, as the passuk states, “Her gates have sunk into the earth” (Eichah 2:9).

Asaf saw this and his heart rejoiced, for he said that now the one who will remove the gates from the ground and bring a great salvation to Am Yisrael with the building of the third Bet HaMikdash, for sure will also bring up my father from the ground. Therefore it states, “Mizmor LeAsaf” – “A Song of Asaf”, since Asaf had joy when he saw what would happen in the future. All this was a new insight for Avimi, until his father Rav Avimi awoke and drank the water.

Every person who comes to marry a lady, should consider, not to look at beauty, “Grace is false, and beauty vain” (Mishlei 31:30). The main thing is to ascertain that the lady is righteous, a wise lady who will lead him on the correct path. This is a great musar to a person that when he marries a lady he should look ahead and pray to Hashem that He should prepare for him an eshet hayil, who won’t cause him harm like Korach’s wife but on the contrary, she should be like On ben Pelet’s wife.

Happy is the person that Hashem has graced him with a good wife and he will merit a home of Torah, a home of wisdom, a home of spiritual growth. May Hashem merit us to make our will the same as His will.

Shabbat Shalom!

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