Rabbi Boaz Genut
Former Rosh Kollel in St. Louis
Former Executive Director of Torah Mitzion
Currently Director of the Department of Marriage and Community Affairs at Tzohar
Any dispute that is for the sake of Heaven – will have a constructive outcome; but one that is not for the sake of Heaven will not have a constructive outcome. What sort of dispute was for the sake of Heaven? The dispute between Hillel and Shamai. And which was not for the sake of Heaven? The dispute of Korach and his entire company. (Mishnah, Masechet Avot 5:20)
The Mishnah distinguishes between two famous historical controversies. One is the argument between Hillel and Shamai, which the Mishnah defines as “dispute that is for the sake of Heaven”. The other one is the dispute of Korach and his people, which the Mishnah defines as “dispute that is not for the sake of Heaven”.
A close look in the way the Mishnah puts the dispute of Korach will raise the question: why didn’t the Mishnah mention the other ‘side’ of the dispute of Korach. It is only “his entire company” which is mentioned, but not who they argued with.
The Malbim deals with another issue. How will we know if we face an argument which is “for the sake of Heaven” or not?
Chazal taught us that when we face a “dispute for the sake of Heaven” each side will be united for itself, since they all have one major goal – the sake of Heaven. But when we face a “dispute not for the sake of Heaven” but for the sake on oneself ego or for the sake of honor than you won’t find a united side for itself.”
Accordingly we can understand why the Mishnah mentions only the people who came with Korach and not the ones he argued with: The reason for that is because Koarch and his people were fighting between themselves. Indeed, “the dispute of Korach and his entire company” was both sides – an argument one with each other.