There are hidden stories in every parsha and there is a special one this week that you will have to agree strikes close to home. One of my instructors at Machon Schechter, Tamar Kadari inJerusalemwrote a series of articles on Jewish heroines. We are not told her name, but I feel a relationship with her.
We are told that Kroach was unhappy with the job Moses was doing and cajoled approximately 250 of his cohorts to confront Moses and Aaron. An uprising was brewing. Dathan, Abiram and On aligned themselves with Korach. Korach accosts Moses questioning how he could have appointed his brother Aaron the Kohen Gadol, then Dathan (recall that in the movie The Ten Commandments the snide Dathan was played by Edward G. Robinson) and Abiram castigate Moses for bringing them to a lingering death in the Wilderness. Korach gathered his flock (with the notable absence of On) and at Numbers 16:19 we see “… the presence of the Lord appeared to the whole community” and the He said “stand back from this community that I may annihilate them.”
The ground opened up and Korach and his followers were swallowed up in the earth.
Where was On? Our Sages tell us that the wise and righteous wife of On persuaded him to withdraw as we see in the Talmud, Sanhedrin 109. It is frequently said “it is all in the Torah” but we need the Midrash to explain and amplify our understanding. On’s wife discovers he is in cahoots with Korach and asks, “What will you gain from this quarrel? Now Moses is the teacher, and you are but a pupil. And if your rebellion succeeds and Korach replaces Moses, once again, he will be the teacher and you are the pupil. What will you gain from this revolt?”
On is in a quandary, he tells his wife, I swore to them I was “all in”. She (we still do not know her name) knew Korach’s men were scrupulous about matters of modesty and told him she would save him. What did she do? She gave him wine and he became drunk and she took him inside, and his wife then sat at the entrance to the tent and provocatively loosened her hair as if she were bathing. When they came for On, her lack of modesty repelled them and they left. Upon awakening, On discovered Korach and company had been swallowed into the earth (and he was just a little hung over).
Our Sages ascribe the first part of Proverbs 14:1 “The wisest of women builds her house” as she saved her household with her wisdom, to On’s wife. How does this strike close to “my home?” My dear wife Lauren has not pulled me away from bands of infidels, but she has time and time again pushed or pulled me in the right direction as an aspiring rabbi, spouse and now father. It is Lauren’s drive and zeal that often pushes me to be a better person and to help us make a better CSI for the future.
There was a soldier in Tzahal (the Israeli army) named On Kheffer. He was killed in battle in the mid 1970s. He was a cousin of Lauren’s father Jackson and when her parents heard of his death, they decided the wanted to have a son and to name him On. A few years later the “son” was Lauren and when you hear her called to the Torah, she will be called as Onith (the feminine version) bat Yaakov ha Levi.
Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham