There were three prophets in Yirmiyah’s generation: Yirmiyah, Tzefania, and Chulda. Yirmiyah prophesized in the market, Tzefania prophesized in the batei kneisiyos, and Chulda spoke to the women.
HaGaon HaRav Shalom Yosef Elyashiv said there’s an inclination not to listen to Hashem’s voice. That’s why Yirmiyah had to go to the marketplace; he couldn’t wait for the nation to come to him. Tzefania spoke to people in the beis medrash who did not frequent the marketplace. Chulda spoke to the women.
In the standoff between Korach and Moshe, however, everyone eagerly gathered to observe. It is regrettable, and disgraceful, said the Steipler Rav, that this is kind of assemblage that’s popular and draws crowds.
Men, women, and children were willingly lured to a conflict, even giving up their lives to support it. Ohn ben Peles was saved from death by his wife who pointed out to him that no matter who won the fight – Aharon or Korach – he would still be a follower, not a leader.
The Kehillas Yaakov asks: Why didn’t Ohn respond that he wasn’t seeking an important position. Why didn’t he say he believed in Korach and his ideology?
The answer is that those who joined Korach knew deep in their hearts that his cause was only a subterfuge to create controversy. Nonetheless, when Moshe Rabbeinu begged them to retreat and warned them of the fatal consequences, they ignored him. Such is the power of controversy, explained the Steipler; it undermines all rational thought and sound judgment, even among men of repute like Korach’s allies.
To settle the dispute, Moshe told Korach and his company to take machtos. Rashi writes that Moshe warned them that these containers contained the deadly poison by which Nadav and Avihu had been burned. Knowing they would perish, why did they proceed? Rav Shteinman in Sefer Ayeles HaShachar explains that one who is committed to a quarrel will not disengage even if he will ultimately die defending his side.
The Mishnah (Avos 5:20) states that a dispute for the sake of Heaven will endure. Our sages comment that an argument that is ostensibly for the sake of Heaven will persist indefinitely because its disputants believe they are acting righteously.
R’ Yeruchem Levovitz noted that R’ Yisroel Salanter said that arguments about trivial matters can generally be negotiated. But when distinguished individuals believe their dispute is for the sake of Heaven, there is neither compromise nor peace, and every prohibition becomes permissible in the course of winning the conflict.
The Pri Chaim notes the imperative of distancing oneself from disputes and points out that our sources only speak of the controversy of “Korach and his congregation,” not Moshe. Why? Because Moshe Rabbeinu never participated in the quarrel.
Petitioners from around the world would come to Rav Yisroel Yaakov Fisher, author of Even Yisrael, to seek his counsel and gain renewed spirit and consolation. The tzaddik often advised that being careful about mitzvos bein adam l’chaveiro could be a vital source of salvation.
Rav Fisher explained that one of the 13 Divine Attributes of Hashem is erech apayim – endless patience in waiting for sinners to do teshuvah. However, when one harms his fellow man and causes him enduring pain, retribution cannot be delayed.
A very distinguished family in America who had been experiencing an unusual sequence of tzarros sought the advice of Rav Fisher. When he learned of their situation, he began to tremble. “They have definitely injured another person and they must right that wrong,” he cried out. “It is a fact that the sins between man and his fellow man cannot be forgiven even on Yom Kippur until the wounded party is appeased.”
“But why are the children also being affected?” Rav Fisher was asked.
He cited Shemos 34:7: “Hashem recalls the iniquity of parents upon children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” Rashi explains that they are punished when they are culpable for the same wrongdoings.
The great Gerer Rebbe, the Imrei Emes, suggested changing the time davening began in his shuls on Shabbos morning from 10:30 to 7:30. The older chassidim who prepared hours for prayer and then learned found it difficult to adapt to the earlier time. The younger chassidim were amenable because they were committed to fulfilling the will of the tzaddik.
When the Imrei Emes heard of the friction that had developed between the two factions, he exclaimed, “Tefillah is only m’drabbanan, but the avoidance of machlokes is m’doraysa.”