Like every part of the Torah, the story of Korach, who led a Levite rebellion against the authority of Moshe and the Kohanim, is filled with multiple layers of meaning and message. One lesson that has always spoken to me is about the nature of arguments.

In the Chapters of the Fathers [5:17], the Sages incorporate Korach into a discussion of arguments, but do not make the comparison that we would expect:

Which is an argument for the sake of Heaven? This is the argument of Hillel and Shammai. And not for the sake of Heaven? This is the argument of Korach and his entire congregation.

Shouldn’t it have said, “the argument of Korach and Moshe?” The Medrash Shmuel says no, because Moshe was entirely blameless. The argument may not have been for the Sake of Heaven, but Moshe was. On the contrary, to have remained entirely for the Sake of Heaven in the face of such a personal challenge both tested and demonstrated his humility and strength of character.

When we learn of an argument between two parties, it is human nature to believe that the truth must lie somewhere in the middle. The Torah teaches that this is not necessarily so. On the contrary, the Commandment to judge every person favorably requires that we assume that both of the parties are as pure as Moshe — even though this cannot be true of both sides simultaneously — until we know better.

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