Ohn the son of Pelet was a Reubenite who fell under the sway of a rebellious Levite named Korach. Korach felt that a great injustice had been perpetrated in Aaron’s appointment to the High Priesthood. Why, he challenged, was the leadership completely in the hands of Moses and Aaron?

Two known troublemakers (according to the Midrash Yalkut Shimoni, Shemot 167), Datan and Aviram quickly gave Korach their support. Ohn, who lived near Datan and Aviram, also joined Korach’s cause. Together, these four men enlisted more followers until Korach was able to approach Moses and Aaron accompanied by 250 men and state, “You take too much upon yourselves, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and God is among them; why then do you lift yourselves above the assembly of God?” (Numbers 16:1-3).

After trying to convince them of their folly, Moses challenged them to bring an incense offering the next morning, as would Aaron. God would then demonstrate the chosen leader. That night, Korach went through the Israelite camp and said, “Do you think I am endeavoring to acquire a high position for myself? I seek distinction for all of us” (Numbers Rabah 18:10).

Ohn’s wife was not convinced of Korach’s sincerity. She said to her husband: “What does it matter to you? Whether the one [Moses] remains master or the other [Korach] becomes master, you are only a disciple” (Talmud Sanhedrin 110a). Ohn, however, feared that he was already far too involved and would be forced to join in burning the incense. To protect him, Ohn’s wife sat outside their tent looking like a disreputable woman while Ohn stayed inside. Korach’s followers saw her when they came to pick him up, and, fearful of being accused of immorality, they turned away. Ohn’s wife saved his life.

This Treat was last posted on June 11, 2010.
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