Korach was an extremely wealthy person. Chazal in the Midrash say he made his fortune back in Egypt selling bricks. In addition, he was a person of extremely elevated spiritual stature. Chazal say that Korach was one of the carriers of the Aron HaBrit and that the verse in Tehillim (55:15) “Asher Yachdav Namtik Sod” is referring to Aharon HaKohen and Korach in that they were both on the same spiritual level. It is unfathomable therefore how the vastly wealthy and wise Korach saw fit to enter into a dispute over who should get the Matnot Kehuna – Trumot and Ma’asrot from the fruits and vegetables, hafrashat challah from the dough, bikkurim from the fruit, the choice pieces from the korbanot, etc. It wasn’t as if he was lacking food. . . .
A Mishna in Avot (4: 21) says “Rebi Elazar HaKapar says that “jealousy, lust and the desire for honor remove the man from this world.
The Ben Ish Chai says that since Korach was so wealthy, his wife was always dressed in the finest clothes and was adorned in jewelry including golden bracelets all the way up both arms. Whenever Rabbanit Korach was out and about in public, all the women would gaze at her with wonder and admiration.
After Matan Torah, Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu to carve two luchot out of a precious stone called “snapiryon” (some say it was sapphire). This was the most beautiful and expensive stone in existence. After carving the luchot, Hashem told Moshe that he could keep, as a gift, all the shards of stone left over from the carving. Moshe, devoid of any materialism, did not realize the value of the stones; they just looked pretty. So Moshe gave them to Oholiav, an expert in setting precious stones, to make the shards into a necklace for his wife, Tzipporah. When all the women saw Tzipporah’s breathtaking necklace, Korach’s wife became “old news” – nobody paid any attention to her any more. This is what started the whole machloket – jealousy over a necklace.
After the Levi’im were inducted to work in the Mishkan, Korach returned home totally bald. Rabbanit Korach took one look at him and burst out laughing, “What’s this?” Korach told her all about the induction ceremony, how Aharon waved the Levi’im around in the air and how they all had their hair shaven off. Rabbanit Korach, who now intensely disliked and was jealous of Tzipporah, said that Moshe had done it to humiliate him and the other Levi’im (she conveniently “overlooked” the fact that Moshe himself was also shaved). This started the ball rolling, with Rabbanit Korach instigating and provoking her husband to challenge Moshe.
Contrast Rabbanit Korach’s behavior to the behavior of the wife of On ben Pelet from the tribe of Reuven, one of Korach’s group. Korach cynically recruited the tribe of Reuven to join his “coup” against Moshe and Aharon, claiming that it was the right of the bechor, Reuven, to work in the Mishkan – not Aharon and the Kohanim.
Rabbanit On ben Pelet was a smart lady. She immediately understood that it didn’t matter who won the dispute, Moshe or Korach – either way her husband was never going to get the priesthood. So she devised a scheme to stop her husband from showing up on the fateful day that Korach and his group were swallowed up by the earth. She gave him a generous tot of wine that night and made him drunk. While he was sleeping off a hangover the following morning, Rabbanit On ben Pelet sat outside their tent and uncovered her hair. Korach’s supporters came to fetch On ben Pelet to join them in offering the ketoret. Korach’s group may have been “misfits,” but even so, none of them were going to go near a married woman with her hair uncovered. In this way On ben Pelet never showed up and was saved.
Chazal say the verse in Mishlei (14:1), “The wisdom of a woman builds her home” is referring to On ben Pelet’s wife, while the second part of the verse, “. . . and a foolish one tears it down” is referring to Korach’s wife. This is the destructive power of jealousy.
As we know (Avot 5, 6), ten things were created on the sixth day of Creation. The first on the list is the hole in the earth that swallowed up Korach and his eida. Have you ever wondered why Hashem created these just before Shabbat came in? Why couldn’t He have created each on the relevant day – when He separated Heaven and Earth, when He separated the upper and lower waters, etc. Why wait until the last minute to create them?
Chazal say that these ten things were not part of the original plan of Creation. Only when Adam and Chava sinned did it become necessary to create them. In the timeline given by Chazal for the sixth day, the sin occurred in the tenth hour and Adam and Chava were sentenced in the eleventh – just as Shabbat was coming in – “bein hashmashot.”
Chava squeezed grapes and made her husband drunk, during which time the snake tempted her to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Then Chava gave her husband to also eat from the tree. Why would she do such a thing? She had sinned, but why drag her husband in with her? Rashi says she thought that if she is now going to perish as Hashem warned, then Adam will marry another woman. Jealousy caused Chava to make Adam sin.
Jealousy, lust and the desire for honor remove “the man” (referring to Adam HaRishon) from this world. This seed of jealousy necessitated that Hashem create “pri ha’aretz,” which would, many generations later with Korach, come to atone for the same sin of jealousy in Chava, which led to her husband’s downfall. Chazal say that if a man is lucky and merits a good wife, she will help build him up. If not, she will be against him and result in his downfall.
Parshat HaShavua Trivia Question: What “baking ingredient” is hidden in the names of Korach’s ancestors?
Answer to Last Week’s Trivia Question: Hafrashat Challah is like a “double tax” on wheat. You have already taken Trumot and Ma’asrot from the wheat, so why do you need to take a “second” Truma from the dough? Hashem wanted to give us an abundance of mitzvot so that we will get merit for observing them. Giving an extra mitzvah that is observed daily (or at least was done so before the Industrial Revolution), connected to our daily bread gives us an abundance of merits and constantly elevates our physical world in spirituality.