The parsha begins by listing the main protagonists in a rebellion against the leadership of Moshe Rabbenu. First is the instigator, Korach ben Yitzhar followed by Dathan and Avirom, the sons of Eliav, and Ohn ben Peles. However, as the narrative continues, Ohn seems to have disappeared. A well known Medrash begins to clarify this mystery. Ohn's wife asked him what he would gain by joining in the rebellion. If Korach succeeded, he would lead, but Ohn would still be a follower. Ohn then asked how he could effectively separate himself from the group. Mrs. Peles devised a plan. She placed herself at the entrance of their tent and began combing her hair. When Korach and his group saw her they came no further and Ohn and his family were saved. It is because of the insight of Mrs. Peles that our Sages say, "The wisdom of a woman has established a house..."
If Ohn did not remain part of the rebellion, why mention his name? Our tradition teaches that while we are rewarded for thoughts and intentions to do mitzvoth, we are not punished for thoughts and intentions of sinning unless we carry them out. The Gemara cites only one exception to this rule, thoughts of
a denial of God Himself and arguing against one's Rebbe. This indicates the seriousness of heresy and of rebellion against Torah authorities.
Ohn ben Peles stands as a prototype for all of us who can fall prey to the lures of the
/he finds himself in a constant struggle, but he is also a
, a being with a higher and wondrous self. His wife was his
, the reflection of his better half. She understood the focus of the
and used that point as the basis for her argument rather than pure logic, for the
uses many tools, often emotional and psychological rather than logical.
notes that Korach used the power of mockery to attract supporters. By telling a hypothetical story of a poor widow who was left indigent because whatever she tried, she was forced to give so many gifts to the priests, Korach mocked the fundamentals of Torah, implying that Moshe's teaching were flawed and self -serving. The
observes that when people observe mocking behavior, they generally stop thinking clearly and join in the derisive outlook.
Mrs. Peles didn't argue logically. She used the
's own tools. The lure of honor that propelled Korach would not affect Ohn no matter who the leader was. Then she made Ohn drunk, a condition that would parallel that lack of logical thought mockery had created. Cynicism and mockery prevent growth, just as a drunken stupor followed by sleep prevent growth. Mockery is the hallmark of Amalek and is their major weapon against
, writes Rabbi Frand. Arrogance and egotism tear down other people and what they represent. Cynicism is its most effective tool. We must remain on guard, for there's a little of Amalek in each of us. When we fall into the trap of the
, when our desires overtake us, it is hard to extricate ourselves from them.
As Rabbi Elazar states in
, envy is one of three things that remove one from this world. Korach was so consumed with jealousy of Moshe and Aharon, notes Rabbi Segal, that he refused to recognize his own exalted position in Hashem's service. Someone in that state of desire loses sight of reality. This was the wisdom of Ohn's wife, continues Rabbi Ezrachi. She got Ohn to sleep, and when he woke up, he would see things with greater clarity. Most of us are fortunate enough to have someone in our lives who can bring us back to reality, but we also have the power of countering the power of the
within ourselves. One must know what argument to present at the current moment that will create the momentum for change. Similarly, when we find ourselves in a state of inertia before doing a mitzvah, we can motivate ourselves by focusing on the positive aspect of our action, whether it's our love of coffee to help us get up in the morning, to the smile we'll get from someone we help, to the benefit we always get from praying to Hashem.
The Manchester Rav suggests that perhaps Ohn himself was afflicted with a similar envy that blinded him to the illogic of Korach's persuasion. Mrs. Peles, by putting Ohn to sleep, writes Rabbi S. Grosbard, gave him the opportunity to stop, breathe, and think things through properly. To overcome the
, we must turn off the distractions, be honest with ourselves and admit that we are not calm. We must work to retain the serenity and integrity of our souls. How do I respond to outside pressures? Do they cause me to get shaken up or do I stay focused on my inner truth? Mrs. Peles stayed focused on the truth and could recognize the real motivation behind Korach's challenge.
Rabbi Wachtfogel elaborates on this idea. Mrs. Peles showed Ohn that he was exactly where Hashem wanted him to be, regardless of who was the leader. If we know who we are and recognize our place in the world, we will not easily become ensnared in the traps of the