Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Heroes of the Korach Mutiny (an extremely important message)

by Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher, Dean of Students, Diaspora Yeshiva

The heroes of the Korach Rebellion were Korach's sons and Mrs. ON ben Pelet. Let us learn about their acts of heroism.

The Torah states, "And Korach separated himself with Datan and Aviram... and ON ben Pelet..." (Bamidbar 16:1).

In his revolt against the authority of Moshe and Aharon, Korach was supported by Datan and Aviram and by ON ben Pelet. This opening verse of Parshat Korach is the only place where ON ben Pelet is mentioned. His name does not occur at all in the more detailed narrative that follows. Noting the absence of the name from the subsequent account, the Talmud (Sanhedrin l09b) states that ON ben Pelet was saved from the consequences of his foolish rebellion by the wisdom and sound common sense of his wife.

Mrs. Ben Pelet pointed out to her husband that he had nothing to gain from the rebellion against Moshe, because no matter who the leader would be, Moshe or Korach, ON would remain simply a follower. He took her advice, withdrew from the rebellion, and his life was saved.

The Midrash finds allusions in ON ben Pelet's name to his initial involvement in Korach's mutiny. He is called ON from the word, "Aninut", which means mourning, or "Onein", a mourner, because he did not cease from mourning for having sided with Korach. He is named Ben Pelet from the word "Pele", a wonder, because it was a wonder that he listened to his wife and survived the Korach disaster.

The Midrash understands the words of Mishlei 14:1, "The wise among the women builds her house", to refer to ON's wife whose wisdom saved her husband and her household from destruction. The continuation of the verse, "but the foolish woman overthrows it with her own hands," refers to Korach's wife, who in encouraging her husband to rebel against Moshe, caused her own death and that of her husband.

Getting back to ON, who spent the rest of his life in Aninut – mourning for his folly, is this the proper way to Teshuvah? Interestingly, Korach's sons also did Teshuvah. So Why were they not also called ON for their act of mourning for their sin of initially supporting their father’s rebellion?

The answer is that while both ON and Korach’s sons showed remorse, Korach’s sons acted upon their remorse. They resolved to change for the better. They did not remain in mourning, in "Aninut", feeling sorry for themselves, regretting the past but refusing to contemplate the future. The sons of Korach composed some of the most beautiful and inspiring chapters of Psalms as a Tikun (a positive correction), for their sin.

What a profound idea! How many of us regret our sins and errors, show remorse over our past mistakes, even become depressed for a while over our misdeeds, but do not progress from this point. We continue to berate ourselves over our negative behavior but can't get past it. That is all we do. For some, this mourning and depression becomes an end in itself rather than being part of the process of spiritual growth. Remorse and guilt are an essential prerequisite for Teshuvah, but they do not comprise the only contributing factor.

One must proceed to triumph over remorse, to overcome the symptoms of depression, and to accept the challenge of spiritual growth, advancement and progress. Korach's sons succeeded in this challenge by growing spiritually, and composing some of the most beautiful Psalms, which have inspired, rejuvenated and given courage and spiritual strength to countless generations of Jews and gentiles.

ON on the other hand was too preoccupied with his shameful past to confront the future and change himself for the better. As the Rambam states, the Baal Teshuvah has to become a new person and cease to wallow in past transgressions.

Therefore, the Torah tells us that as Lot was being saved from the destruction of Sodom (B'reishit 19:17) "And he [the angel] said, ‘To save your soul, don't keep looking back.' Thus, the message for us is to not keep looking over our shoulder at past misdeeds but to focus on improving ourselves in the future.


I would like to add one very important lesson to be learned from the sons of Korach. Hashem ended the fiasco of Korach’s rebellion with the ground opening up and swallowing Korach and his rebellious band, and sending them to a very unpleasant death in a very unpleasant place (use your imagination). The sons of Korach did Teshuvah as the ground opened by admitting that the Torah was the truth and that Moshe was teaching the truth. As Korach’s men were falling, a ridge appeared and saved the sons of Korach. Their last second Teshuvah of turning to Hashem and admitting His truth saved them and completely changed their lives from rebellious individuals to servants of Hashem.

I have said many times that Hashem’s mercy is infinite. Once an individual turns to Hashem and becomes totally aware that the only road to salvation is Hashem, that instant Teshuvah changes us from a lost person to a person of facing a great eternity. It literally can change us from the horrible 2/3rd group to the wonderful 1/3rd group (Zechariah 13:8).

When asked how it will be possible for all the Jews to do Teshuvah and bring the worldwide redemption, it is the simple act of the sons of Korach that gives us the answer. When the earth is shaking and the meteors are falling, or when the ground opens ready to swallow us to a horrible death, the simple act of turning to Hashem changes it all instantly, instant Teshuvah, instant salvation.

Of course, starting right now with that Teshuvah and turning to Hashem immediately could avoid the test of having ground open and scaring us to death. Why wait, do the right thing now and save yourself and your loved ones today. Avoid being scared to death to get you the do the right thing.

It may be thousands of years later, but we also could be a heroes and avoid Korach's mutiny.


  1. Rosh Chodesh Tammuz tov!
    It is yahrtzeit of Yosef ha Tzadik.
    I am still perplexed from erev Shabbat.


    On erev Shabbat, while after prepared Shabbat table, i waited on the balcony to enjoy the fresh air and rest a little. With my back to Kineret and face to the place where sun is going down, i saw 2 black flying dragons flying/dancing smoothly just above the horizon.
    Perplexed for what i saw(?) i was sitting there, trying to 'remember' what it could be.
    Now while sitting still there, i felt something going close to me on my left shoulder.
    From the direction of Kineret flying slowly just two arms distance from me, there was a flying flame, slowed next to me, looked at my face and continued in the way between Meron and Yam ha Tichon.
    She was so cuted and sweet that i wanted to hug her.
    What was it?
    When my husband and son arrived from bet knesset, i could not wait until hamotzi to tell about it.
    It even smelled with fire, but good enjoyable smell.

    I have no idea what this was. It was so close to me, i could clearly see a flame, with nothing around, in the measures of double kidush kos.

    Any idea?
    I was not sleeping or dreaming.

    Thank you for the answer.

    אורנה ניצבת

    1. I don't have a clue. Since everything in this world is an illusion, you were possibly being shown something by Hashem, the Yetzer Harah, or who knows what. I have had strange illusions myself, but they had some personal meaning. Only you should be able to decipher any meaning in this since it happened to you. Sorry, I can't be of any further help.

    2. .... the place where sun is going down, i saw 2 black flying dragons flying/dancing smoothly just above the horizon.
      I asked around some people that more about our scriptures then me.
      רהב, liviathan, also mitzrayim. Red sea, west....
      Now the friendly fire ball flying during erev Shabbat, was the pureness of Yosef ha Tzadik, in whose merit we entered Eretz Israel.

      After seeing the new message on Dani18, what i saw is clear.
      The evil is outside, waiting. In Eretz Israel, there is heavenly protection in the merit of our AVOT. I am sure all "bad" things will be used by the Only ONE for good.
      Have Emuna ( i am saying this also to myself).

  2. Many melachim (angels) are described as flying flames. You saw a sign that things are happening. I have many signs, mostly coming in my dreams and my children's dreams.

    1. If you have the opportunity to write down about the dreams, I would love to hear about them. I am always fascinated at how Hashem sends us personal messages. You can send them to me by private Email if you don't want them to be posted on my blog comments.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. thank you for the answers!