In this week's Parsha, we witness the downfall of Korach and his followers, who
rebelled against Moshe.
This incident seems puzzling. How could it be that Korach, who was, after all, a gadol
hador, along with 250 nesi'ai edah, all great men in their own right, stoop to instigate
such a rebellion?
If we trace back to the roots of this affair, we will find that the seeds of strife
were sown by none other than the wife of Korach. The medrash (Medrash Mishlei) explains
that the downfall of Korach was caused by his following the advice of his wife.
The medrash relates as follows:
When Korach returned from the Bais Medrash, he was greeted by his wife. She asked him,
"Which Halacha did Moshe teach today?"
"The mitzvah of T'cheiles," he replied. He proceeded to relate the details of
the Mitzvah: that any garment having four corners must have Tzitzis, and that one of the
tzitzis must be T'cheiles, a shade of blue from the Chilazon fish.
"How he mocks you!" She exclaimed. "I will make for you a talis that is
entirely T'cheiles. Then well see what Moshe says."
And she did. (Bear in mind that this was in the days of spinning wheels and hand
Whereupon Korach gathered the 250 nisiei edah, and dressed them, too, in shawls
of T'cheiles. (One explanation of the words "Vayikach Korach" is that Korach
took the shawls of T'cheiles. )
He and his followers then confronted Moshe with the question, "Does a shawl made
entirely from T'cheiles still require a single strand of T'cheiles in its Tzitzis?"
When Moshe replied in the positive, Korach and his followers began to challenge him
derisively, arguing that if a single strand of T'cheiles is enough to absolve an entire
garment made of a different colored wool, why is it that a garment made totally from
T'cheiles requires one more strand?
This was the start of the rebellion that brought about the total destruction of Korach,
his followers, and their entire families. Goaded by his jealous wife, Korach took the path
that led to his downfall.
In contrast to the wife of Korach, the wife of Ohn ben Peles used her energies to save
her husband from destruction. Ohn ben Peles was one of Korach's original followers. In the
beginning of the Parsha, he is mentioned as being one of Korach's followers, yet by the
time of the punishement, his name is not mentioned.
The medrash relates that he was saved from the fate of the rebels by none other than
When Ohn came home and told his wife of the rebellion, she attempted to persuade him to
withdraw. She argued, "If Moshe is the leader, you are the disciple, and if Korach is
the leader, you are the disciple. What do you have to gain by taking part of the
She appealed to his sense of logic.
When she saw that her arguments failed to persuade him, she devised a plot to save her
husband. She served her husband a strong drink which put him to sleep. She then went
outside to her courtyard and uncovered her hair.
When Korach's followers came to pick him up, they were confronted with the sight of a
women with her hair uncovered in an immodest fashion. (Ironically, though they were
involved in a rebellion against Moshe, they still retained the sensitivity to tznius.)
They promptly turned around and left. And so, Ohn was left behind.
When the earth opened up to swallow Korach and his followers, Ohn's bed started being
pulled towards the opening. His wife grabbed the edge of the bed and prayed fervently, and
thus, Ohn was spared. He spent the rest of his life repenting for once having been a part
of Korach's rebellion.
The possuk in Mishlei (14:1) states: "Chochmas nashim bonsu baisa, v'eeveles
b'yadeha tehersenu" - The wise woman builds her home, and the foolish one destroys it
with her own hands.
This possuk refers to the wives of Ohn ben Peles and Korach. Each one had an awesome
power. The wife of Ohn ben Peles used this awesome power to save her home and family from
ruin, and the wife of Korach used this awesome power to bring destruction on her home and
Each and every woman has the same power. She also has the same choice. It's all in her
hands; she is the master constructor. May you all be granted the siyato d'shmaya to rise
to the challenge.
Note: Of course, man himself has free choice. He
can choose for himself which path to follow. If man were totally manipulated by woman, he
would have no free will, and that would defeat the purpose of his existence. Though the
influence of the woman is great, it is not all-encompassing.
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