16:1. Vayikach Korach. What a Difference a Good Shidduch Makes
The Gemora talks about the word ‘vayikach’, and why the story begins with this word. There are several pshotim in the Medrash and the Gemora.
A. Harav Dr. Akiva Eisenberg of Queens once said that the term “vayikach” alludes to the story brought in the Gemora in Sanhedrin 109b-110a which brings the passuk in Mishlei 14 “Chochmos noshim bonsoh beysoh etc., that Ohn ben Peles’ wife saved him(you’re not going to be the leader anyway, why join the rebellion?), while Korach’s wife goaded her husband into the fight (Moshe did what to you? And you let him get away with it? Are you any kind of man at all?). This is why the Parsha begins with vayikach– because marriage is always referred to in the Torah with the term ‘kichoh,’ as we know from the limud of kiddushei kesef “kichoh kichoh”, because their wife of Korach agitated and incited him, while the wife of Ohn convinced him to withdraw from the fight with Moshe. It was Korach’s “vayikach” that destroyed him, and it was Ohn Ben Peles’ “vayikach” that saved him.
I noticed that the Gemora in Sotah 10b also brings a similar passuk about Avshalom; when he began his rebellion against his father, it says (Shmuel 2 18: ) “Ve’Avsholom lokach vayatzeiv lo matzeiva…”, and the Gemora asks, what did he take, and says various teirutzim, with the same nusach as the Gemorah in Sanhedrin. The same pshat can be applied there; in fact, there the passuk ends by saying that he set up ‘yad Avshalom’ because he didn’t have any children, and he wanted a zikoron for himself, that his wife influenced him to do what he did.
B. Who suffered the most from the rebellion of Korach? Who was punished most horribly as a result of this event? Was it Korach, who was swallowed up by the earth and buried alive? Was it the 250 supporters, who were burned? No. The most terrible fate was the one suffered by Ohn ben Peles. Let me explain why.
Ohn Ben Peles’ wife saw through Korach’s demagoguery about all men being equal, and she told Ohn, don’t be silly, don’t listen to that utopian nonsense about everyone being equal, he is going to make himself king, and you will be a follower once again. (Or, as Rabbi Dr. GS said, “you’re a loser no matter what.”) And Ohn says, but what can I do? I’m committed! So she says, leave it to me. She then proceeds to make him drunk, and scares away the Korach people that come to get him. You have to visualize what happened after that. The next day, Ohn is recovering from his bender, he probably still has a headache, and he and his wife are standing there, watching Korach and company confronting Moshe, and then they hear a rumble, a loud and sudden crack! and the earth opens, and they fall into Gehinom. Ohn’s wife turns to him and says, “You see what happens???” If Ohn Ben Peles would ever dare to disagree with his wife, all she would have to do is say, “You are disagreeing with me?” Or just give him a look. Korach was not the only man to fall, alive, into a Gehinom that day.
That is, of course, an easy joke, just like we joke about Mothers in law. But the fact is that we do see how vital a spouse’s advice on ruchniusdike matters can be. Although the gemora says that concerning ‘milli d’shmayo’ a husband should make the decisions, if a man is zocheh to have an “isho chachomo,” only if he is a fool would he ignore the words of the wise wife Hashem gave him. The best example is that of Rochel, R Akiva’s wife. Reb Akiva Eiger spent many hours during the night discussing mussar and hashkafa with his first wife. This does not advocate uxoriousness, because if one r’l is cursed with an ‘eishes Korach,’ he needs to act accordingly.