by Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5TJT.com
Rav Yoseph Leib Nenendick zt”l was the Mashgiach of the Chofetz Chaim’s Yeshiva in Radin and Rav Aharon Kotler’s Yeshiva in Kletzk. He and his family were murdered by teh Nazis in 1943, H”YD.
The Torah specifically makes mention of Ohn Ben Peles in the beginning of the Parsha. It makes no mention of the wife of Ohn Ben of Peles. but the midrash credits her with saving her husband’s life. Ohn Ben Peles, was one of the rebels of the company of Korah, and was from shaivet Reuvain. Afterward, he completely disappears. What happened?
The midrash tells us that Ohn’s wife told him: “What will you gain from this quarrel? Now Moshe is the teacher, and you are the pupil. And if your rebellion succeeds and Korah replaces Moses, once again, he will be the teacher and you will be the pupil! What will you gain from this revolt?” Ohn told his wife: “What can I do? I took counsel with them, and I swore to them that I would be with them in all!”.. What did she do? She gave him wine to drink, intoxicated him, and laid him down inside the tent. The woman sat at the entrance to the tent and loosened her hair, as if she were bathing. Whoever came to call upon Ohn saw her and went back. When On awakened, Korah and his company had already been swallowed in the bowels of the earth, the two hundred and fifty notables had been burned, and Ohn son of Peleth was saved from being swallowed up alive and from being burnt to death.
Rav Yoseph Leib Nenendick zt”l once explained that a person has to constantly seek out trustworthy friends and loved ones, as the Gemorah in Taanis 23a teaches us: “Either friends or death.”
There is a caveat, however, that one must be able to identify who is a trustworthy friend – and who is not. There are people, enemies who feign friendship, and one must literally run away from them, like the netting of a trap – even though they may be offering services and actions that appear to be those of a close friend. Their hearts, however, are not with them. There are also good friends whose actions appear to be like that of an enemy – but the truth is that he is a trusted and loving friend. Shlomo HaMelech discusses this in Mishlei 27:6, “Wounds from a friend are faithful, while kisses of an enemy are burdensome.”
A good analogy of this concept can be seen when a crying toddler is being bathed. In his perception, he thinks that his mother hates him to the point that she wishes to drown him in the water. The truth is that she does this from profound love.
This is the manner of all trusted friends. There is no need to determine whether he will suffer somewhat from what he is doing. This is the meaning of the pasuk in Mishlei (12:10), “And the mercy of evildoers is cruelty.” A person must act with those he cares about in a loyal and true manner. A person must give great contemplation to this point- who is truly a faithful friend that cares about him? Who is his true enemy? If he thinks carefully about it – he can truly determine who is his friend and who is his enemy.
We can see from Rav Nenendick’s words how Korach was actually manipulating Ohn and was only interested in his own glory. He was narcissistic and used smooth words to get Ohn on board for his rebellion. Yet Ohn failed to see this. His wife, however, who had to get him drunk, was Ohn’s true friend.
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