Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher, Dean of Students and Senior Lecturer at Diaspora Yeshiva, is not only a popular speaker and teacher, but also a dynamic thinker and writer. A student of Harav Yaakov Kamenetsky and Harav Gedalia Schorr, Rabbi Sprecher was granted smicha (rabbinical ordination) by Torah Vodaath Yeshiva. Prior to his current position, Rabbi Sprecher was a professor of Judaic studies at Touro College in New York. In addition to his duties at Diaspora Yeshiva, Rabbi Sprecher writes a regular column on various Judaic topics in the Jewish Press, and lectures regularly at the OU Israel Center in Jerusalem.
The heros of the Korach Mutiny
Published: Wednesday, June 14, 2017 09:34:43 PM
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The heros 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 109b) 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 whom 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 Teshuva? Interestingly, Korach’s sons also did Teshuva. 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 Tehilim 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 Teshuva, 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 Tehilim, which have inspired, rejuvenated and given courage and spiritual strength to countless generations of Jews and gentiles.

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 Teshuva 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.

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