The past few פרשיות, Rashis opening line has been למה נסמכה. Seemingly because the events that were being mentioned were not in the chronological order, and therefore there needed to be a logic to the order. However, when it comes to Korach, Rashi does not ask למה נסמכה. Therefore, it must be that this is the right place chronologically for the story with Korach. This is reinforced by what Rashi says on the Pasuk ויפלו על פניו, the reason being because this was the סרחון רביעי, the third being the חטא המרגלים. (See Rashi in דברים א:א that according to one of the פשטים, the dispute with Korach actually occurred earlier than the חטא המרגלים). If this is the case, why did Korach wait until now to challenge Moshe, he should’ve done it the moment he did the various appointments that he was upset about, as the אבן עזרא actually explains in the beginning of the Parshah that really Korach did not wait and he protested immediately following the appointments in מדבר סיני?
There two explanations are as follows. The first being that up until now, Moshe’s leadership was on a high. He performed the ten plagues, split the sea, and received the torah. But after the חטא המרגלים where he consented to sending the מרגלים and it turned out to be a major failure and the Jews wouldn’t enter the land but rather would wander for forty years, now he was down. Therefore Korach felt that now was the opportune time to cash in. But even more simply, we could say that after the חטא המרגלים, it was now decided that they will be wandering for forty years. Wandering unemployed people for forty years who are receiving מן משמים and don’t need to work is a recipe for מחלוקת. Without the reality of going into ארץ ישראל, they lost the sight and purpose and therefore מחלוקת was inevitable.
The גמרא in סנהדרין קי ע"א says כל המחזיק במחלוקת עובר בלאו שנאמר ולא יהיה כקרח וכעדתו. There is no mention that he was arguing about the כהונה, just that he was arguing. The idea is that people that are in involved in מחלוקת, they don’t even know what they are arguing about, because it doesn’t matter what they are arguing about, just that they are arguing.
But nevertheless how could we learn from here that a person who is עוסק במחלוקת is עובר the לאו of לא תהיה כרקח ועדתו? Maybe the Pasuk is only saying not to be like Korach and argue on כהונה?
The answer could be as follows. The argument against כהונה is really an argument for equality which equals an argument for מחלוקת because if everyone is equal, then we are all claiming the same turf. But only if we recognize that we have different rolls can we get along with each other. Therefore Korach who was fighting for equality, when he says כי כל העדה כלם קדשים, was really fighting for מחלוקת. Korach is identified with מחלוקת because he was fighting against kahuna and fighting against kahuna is arguing for equality and equality equals מחלוקת.
On the other hand, אהרן, who was the כהן גדול, was the highest class. He represented the idea that there is a hierarchy and there are different classes in society and yet is known for אוהב שלום ורודף שלום. The idea is that a classless society cannot function and not everyone is created equally. However, each individual must understand that he plays a specific and defined roll in society. (Like we see in George Orwell’s book, Animal Farm).
As mentioned above the לאו is to be מחזיק במחלוקת, to hold on to argument. How far does a person have to go to in order to be considered not מחזיק? דתן ואבירם were Moshe’s arch nemesis. From the start they gave him a hard time. Starting in Mitzrayim, they told on him to Pharaoh causing Moshe to flee Mitzrayim. They gave him a hard time when it came to the מן, as the Pasuk says ויותרו אנשים ממנו עד בקר (בשלח טז:כ) referring to דתן ואבירם who disobeyed him when it came to the מן and now this. Yet, the Pasuk says וישלח משה לקרא לדתן ולאבירם, and Rashi explains מכאן שאין מחזיקין במחלוקת, שהיה משה מחזר אחריהם להשלימם בדברי שלום. So we see how far a person needs to go in order to not be considered מחזיק במחלוקת. Although it could be a חומרא יתירא, nonetheless we could take something from it.
When it comes to mentioning who is involved in the מחלוקת, און בן פלתappears but in the later פסוקים he is not where to be found. The גמרא in סנהדרין קט ע"ב says that his wife convinced him to get out of the מחלוקת. She said to him מאי נפקא לך מינה אי מר רבה אנת תלמידא ואי מר רבה אנת תלמידא. The Gemara on the following page says חכמות נשים בנתה ביתה זו אשתו של און בן פלת. The question is what was the major חכמה that she displayed that she is the quintessential example of חכמות נשים if it was such a silly מחלוקת as Rashi says וקרח שפקח היה מה ראה לשטות זה that we are surprised at Korach that he got into such a silly מחלוקת?
Either one could deduce that it still must be a major חכמה to get someone out of a silly מחלוקת. A person who gets involved in מחלוקת can’t think straight and they get emotionally involved. However, it’s the lady who remains logical to pull the man out of it.
The other explanation could be that אשת און בן פלת could have fought her husband with קנאות and explained to him how clear that Moshe is correct in this argument. However, she understood that he wouldn’t have been convinced. Therefore she needed to convince him by going to the core and explaining that what is in it for you, either way you are going to be the same status. אשת און בן פלת understood one must read between the lines, and see what’s not being said. She was able to understand what קרח motive really was, and therefore was able to explain to her husband that nothing is really in it for him, because either way he’ll end up just a תלמיד.
There was an alter mirer who bought the newspaper the day after the Yeshiva got to Shanghai. Someone approached him and asked him why he bought it if he doesn’t understand Chinese. He answered that Reb Yerucham used to say that one must be able to read in between the lines, that which is not being said is really what’s important. Therefore he didn’t have to understand the language in order to read the newspaper.
The ילקוט שמעוני in the beginning of the Parshah comes to show how much of a demagogue Korach was. The מדרש records a story that Korach was telling over a story to the people about a widow and her two orphaned sons who were struggling to survive. The story goes through how the widow attempts to make a living with a field, but runs into difficulty, as Moshe informs her of the various הלכות that pertain to a field, that make it difficult for her to make a living. She goes on to sell the field and to buy a sheep in order to make a living. However, she further encounters difficulty as אהרן informs her of the many הלכות that make him the rightful recipient of much of the produce such as ראשית הגז. The idea of the מדרש is to show how Korach made up a story in order to incite the people against Moshe and אהרן. In spite of the fact that Korach really wanted to be the כהן גדול and therefore nothing would really change as far as all of these מתנות כהונה, nevertheless in order to get the support of the people he got them to think.