What Are We Arguing About Again? by Josh Lehman


In Parashat Korach, an argument between Korach and Moshe ensues. Korach challenges Moshe by gathering two hundred and fifty men, including Datan and Aviram, and proclaiming that Moshe is no better fit for leadership than he. The Torah writes (BeMidbar 16:3), "VaYikahalu Al Moshe VeAl Aharon VaYomeru Aleihem Rav LaChem Ki Chol HaEidah Kulam Kedoshim UVeTocham Hashem UMadu'a Titnase’u Al Kehal Hashem," "And they assembled themselves together against Moshe and against Aharon, and they said to them, ‘You take too much upon yourselves, for the entire assembly is holy, and Hashem is among them, so why do you lift yourselves up over the assembly of Hashem?’" Although at first glance this seems to be a typical challenge for leadership that has been paralleled many times throughout history, upon closer inspection, a deeper meaning emerges.

By classifying this particular argument, we can reveal its significance. The Mishnah (Avot 5:17) teaches that there are two types of arguments: Arguments that are “LeSheim Shamayim” and arguments that are “Eino LeSheim Shamayim," for the sake of Heaven and not for the sake of Heaven. An example of an argument “LeSheim Shamayim,” the Mishnah tells us, is the kind of argument that we might find between Beit Shamai and Beit Hillel. Although they are arguing, they are doing it for a good cause, for the sole purpose of uncovering the truth. Both sides want to find the correct way to follow Hashem’s Mitzvot, and in that sense they are agreeing. The example that the Mishnah brings for an argument “SheEino LeSheim Shamayim” is the argument of Korach and his followers. The Mishnah doesn’t consider it the argument between Korach and Moshe, but rather, the argument of Korach and his followers. In this argument, no one is trying to accomplish anything productive; rather, it is only for control. Korach is merely antagonizing baselessly, trying to undermine Hashem’s loyalty to Moshe. He isn’t interested in hearing Moshe’s argument; he wants to be in power instead of him. This may explain why the Mishnah doesn’t even mention Moshe, the person Korach is arguing with. Korach isn’t interested in finding the truth of the situation, or even in hearing the point of view of anyone else. He just wants to be right. The Mishnah doesn’t mention Moshe’s name because Moshe is not really given a say in the argument. It is more of a revolt than an argument in that sense.

While we can distinguish between these two types of arguments, how can we say that just because Korach and his followers have the wrong intentions they deserve to die? While having proper intentions is important, is it really that important. In fact, the Gemara (Sanhedrin 105b) states that a person should perform a Mitzvah even if he is not doing it with the proper intentions. Is having an argument with someone a different case? If those arguing don’t have intentions that are classified as “LeSheim Shamayim,” should they be killed?

Rav Yeruchem Levovitz explains that this is in fact the case; one’s argument has to be entirely for the proper reasons. He writes that when people argue for the wrong intentions, it is an unparalleled sin. We have to make sure even when arguing with someone that we have the right intentions. Our arguments have to be solely "LeSheim Shamayim," because otherwise we are no better than Korach. We get carried away so much in our arguments that it blinds us from the truth. Everything we do on a daily basis should be done with Hashem in mind. Even while arguing, we should make sure that we are arguing for a cause worthy of Hashem.

Korach’s Plan by Amitai Glicksman

The Power of an Eidah by Ariel Reiner