Rashi begins his commentary on the Parshah by saying פרשה זו יפה נדרשת במדרש רבי תנחומא. The Taz in his sefer Divrei Dovid asks on Rashi that it would seem problematic for Rashi to write such a thing because the Gemara in Eiruvin 64a says כל האומר שמועה זו נאה, וזו אינה נאה - מאבד הונה של תורה and the Gemara proves this from the Pasuk in Mishlei-ורעה זונות יאבד הון. So how was Rashi able to write פרשה זו יפה נדרשת?
The Maharsha points out that it would seem אסור even to just say זו נאה without saying וזו אינה נאה because the Pasuk is only saying זו נאה when it says ורעה זונות. The reason is because by saying זו נאה, you are implying that there is a וזו אינה נאה even if not spoken out. However, the Rashash disagrees and says this איסור is only when saying זו נאה וזו אינה נאה. But to just say זו נאה is not a problem. Therefore, according to the Rashash, there is no question on Rashi how he wrote פרשה זו יפה נדרשת. But according to the Maharsha, the questions remains.
The Taz answers that usually there are two ways to learn something, either the פשט or the מדרש and Rashi always prefers the פשט over the מדרש. But regarding this Parshah, Rashi has no way to learn it על פי פשט therefore the מדרש is the פשוטו. So when Rashi is saying פרשה זו יפה נדרשת, the emphasis is on the נדרשת and not on the יפה, that it’s יפה only נדרשת because in פשט, Rashi has no way of explaining these Psukim.
על דרך הצחות, when it comes to Machlokes, there is no pshat. Even Rashi who usually explains פשוטו של מקרא, when it comes to Machlokes, there is no pshat but can only be explained על פי דרש.
Before the First World War, Reb Chaim Brisker said that there wasn’t going to be a war. After the war broke out, they asked him what’s going on. He answered them that in cheshbon, he was right that it doesn’t make sense for any of the sides to go to war. But what could he do if Kaiser Wilhelm has no שכל. The Rav was bringing out the point that when it comes to milchama, על פי פשט it makes no sense, and nevertheless it takes place.
The following story comes from Reb Avraham Mordechai Hirschberg who was a Talmid of the Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin (Father in law of Reb Michel Shurkin) and was a big ilui. When he was eighteen he put out a sefer on Kodshim called מחשת הקודש and it had a Haskama from the Brisker Rav.
When the Second World War broke out in September 1939, the Brisker Rav happened to have been in Warsaw for medical reasons. This Avraham Mordechai Hirschberg came in to the Brisker Rav and he saw that he was distraught. So he asked him why the Rav is so uptight. He responded that he didn’t know what to do because his wife was back at home in Brisk and she wanted him to come home but it was a big סכנה and people were saying to just escape. His wife was telling him that by the First World War, Rabbanim who didn’t stay in their towns didn’t get their rabbanus back and therefore he should come back. So this Avraham Mordechai Hirschberg responded to him with a vort from his grandfather, the Rav in Biala. In Koheles, there are twenty eight עתים, when it says עת ללדת ועת למות וכו'. On all the עתים, Rashi has an explanation except on עת מלחה ועת שלום. So he said because Rashi is a Baal Pshat and in Milchama, you can’t say Pshat. Therefore, Avraham Mordechai Hirschberg as a bochur, said to the Brisker Rav that your derech is על דרך הפשט and therefore when it comes a Milchama, you can’t figure it out. Therefore he advised him to go and ask the Gerrer Rebbe to which he told him, don’t even think about and just escape, and so he did.
This is all woven into the idea that Rashi says פרשה זו יפה נדרשת that when it comes to Machlokes and Milchama, you can’t approach it with Pshat because it doesn’t have to make any sense and therefore the Psukim by Korach don’t have to make sense.
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? In contrast to what the אבן עזרא explains in the beginning of the Parshah that really Korach did not wait and he protested immediately following the appointments in מדבר סיני and the only reason why the Parshah of Korach appears now is because אין מוקדם ומאוחר בתורה.
The Ramban says that it must be that up until this point, although he was upset, he couldn’t get anyone to join him in his revolt against Moshe Rabbeinu because Moshe Rabbeinu was delivering the good and everything was moving in the right direction. But now with the recent events and deaths that occurred at קברות התאוה and it being decreed that the current generation will die in the Midbar because of the sin of the Meraglim, now Korach felt it was an opportune time and the people would join him.
The Rav added to the Ramban that the episode of sending the Meraglim was the first time in his leadership that he had to make a decision on his own. Hashem said to him שלח לך לדעתך, that he wasn’t being commanded to send them rather Hashem was saying you do what you feel is best. As a consequence of Moshe’s decision, everything went wrong, so to speak, and changed the course of Jewish History. Therefore, this was the best time for Korach to launch his revolt. Now Korach felt it was the opportune time to challenge Moshe’s decision as to whether they were God given, or on his own.
But nevertheless we see, that in spite of the fact that Moshe Rabbeinu made a terrible mistake, he remained the רבן של ישראל and the אדון הנביאים. Moshe had to explain to them that the other decisions and things he did were not מלבי and on his own, rather they were על פי נבואה and were therefore not questionable. Only where he was functioning based on his own שכל, he might make a mistake.
But even after Moshe Rabbeinu is proven correct with the prediction of the opening of the ground, something never seen in the history of the world, one would think that he would have silenced the doubters. And yet, Klal Yisrael continue to challenge and question him. They exclaim את המתם את עם ה, accusing Moshe and Aaron of killing the People. As a result, a plague breaks out and Aaron has to run around with the קטורת to stop the plague. Following this incident, Moshe Rabbeinu further needs to prove the validity of Aaron HaKohen with the מטות. Throughout Moshe’s tenure as the leader of the Jewish people, he endured and received so much complaining. He led the people for forty years and experienced tremendous setbacks but that didn’t deter him from pushing on. It’s a lesson of perseverance and resilience.
Now not everybody is a leader of a nation but he is at least a leader to his family, and if not to his family he is at least to himself. The Pasuk in Koheles says עיר קטנה ואנשים בה מעט (ט,יד) and the Meforshim explain that this Pasuk is referring to the human being and his limbs. The Kuzari writes in מאמר ג compares a חסיד to a מושל because every person is in charge of his being. He decides what he looks at, what he hears, and where he goes and has to control them all and lead them in the right direction.
Yet, sometimes the various כוחות within us don’t cooperate, we lose control, and we could Chas Vshalom give up. But the lesson to be learnt is that the true leaders never give up. Like we see with Moshe Rabbeinu that even with all the setbacks and all the fault, he still managed to create a people like no other. Therefore, a person should never give up. As Winston Churchill once said “the definition of success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm”. However, although success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm, one should not keep on repeating the same thing over and over but rather he should learn from his mistakes. He should learn from his experiences and adjust the method. Because Einstein was attributed saying “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”. So one must keep on marching forward, while trying different things.
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.
The Pasuk begins with ויקח קרח and the Meforshim busy trying to explain the usage of the word ויקח in this context because what did he take. But it is interesting that in the English language, there is an expression that “he picked a fight”. But what exactly is such a person picking. Is he picking the option of a fight out of other options? Rather it could be that when picking a fight, you are picking something to fight about. But really, there is no argument and you just want something to fight about. So when you are picking a fight, you are picking something to hang your fight on. That’s the ויקח קרח that he picked a topic to fight about. But the topic wasn’t so relevant, because each party in the argument was fighting for something else. He had his topic of wanting to be the Kohen Gadol and the 250 men had another topic. So it was really just about picking something to fight about.
The first Pasuk in the Parshah begins ויקח קרח בן יצהר בן קהת בן לוי but doesn’t go all the way back to say בן יעקב. Rashi explains ולא הזכיר בן יעקב, שבקש רחמים על עצמו שלא יזכר שמו על מחלוקתם. The Ohr HaChaim points out that the fact that Rashi needs to provide an explanation as to why it doesn’t go back to even a fourth generation to say בן יעקב indicates that really it should have gone back another generation. It’s just that יעקב was מתפלל and therefore he was spared. The question is why should it have gone back all the way to a fourth generation and mention בן יעקב?
The truth is that Yaakov was really an individual who displayed the idea that a person should not settle and be satisfied with where nature places you. Yaakov was born second, and his place in nature was to be second to Eisav. However, through certain ways, perceived by Eisav as trickery as the Pasuk says ויעקבינו זה פעמים, he was able to move out of his class and what nature presented him and become the bechor. So in theory, Korach was attempting the same thing. He was acting just as his great zeide did, that he saw a person should not be satisfied with the class and status he was put in, but rather he should strive for more.
But we know obviously that Korach was wrong and therefore there must be a difference between Yaakov Avinu and Korach. It could be that Yaakov wanted to move classes but Korach wanted to remove classes, as the Pasuk says כולם קדושים. But that is wrong because a person has to understand where he is and where someone else, and he must understand where he ends and where the other begins. A classless society cannot function and not everyone is created equally. However, each individual must understand that he plays a specific and defined role in society.
The Haftorah for Parshas Korach discusses Shmuel and the people’s complaint and desire to have a king. The Rama Miphano quotes from the Arizal that Shmuel was a gilgul of Korach and he was a תיקון for him. The Arizal writes that when Bilam proclaimed מי יחיה משמו אל, he was saying מי יחיה משמואל, because he was lamenting how there would be know תיקון from him like Korach was going to have שמואל be a תיקון for him. How was Shmuel a תיקון for Korach?
When Shmuels mother came to Eli HaKohen to daven for a child, she davened that he should be normal and average. Not too short, but not too tall, not too dark but not too light, not too dumb but not too smart. Shmuel was described as מזרע אנשים, meaning average. Yet, we know that משה ואהרן בכהניו שומואל בקוראי שמו, that Shmuel was equal to Moshe and Aaron. How could it be, someone described as מזרע אנשים be equal to Moshe who was אדון הנביאים? The answer is because Shmuel, reached his ultimate potential. With what he was given, he maximized to the fullest and therefore he in considered to be of an equal to Moshe Rabbeinu. But Korach didn’t understand this. He thought, that in order to be great, he needed to be in a different class. He didn’t understand that where a person is, is where he is supposed to be and there is nothing wrong with being in second class. Just that a person must strive for the best he could be and maximize his potential in the class and with the talents he was given which is what Shmuel accomplished. Through this, Shmuel was able to be a tikun for Korach.