Dasan and Aviram the notorious rabble-rousers finally met their fate. Moshe realized the futility in trying to convince them of the truth however Moshe didn’t just have them executed, which is the right of the Jewish king, but resorted to a miraculous method, they were to perish in a hitherto unknown manner: If I am correct said Moshe, let the ground open up its mouth and swallow them alive.
Why did Moshe not have them executed? What was Moshe’s point in having them depart in such an astonishing process?
The punishment for Machlokes – quarreling, has an aspect more severe than any other crime. For in a fall-out not only are the active participants removed, but even their minor children and infants who are unable to reason, die with them. What is so unique about Machlokes?
A closer look at the Pesukim reveals the solution. Moshe says “the ground should swallow them alive” – this means that they had forfeited all right to existence. Dasan and Aviram were buried alive, they did not go through a stage of dying followed by burial, instead they were covered over while still energetically active.
This is not a punishment, but removal. Harmony is crucial for perpetuating human existence, people are co-dependent beings. Arguments and quarrelling take over a person’s entire outlook; everything is viewed through the prism of their disagreement, and this inhibits any development. Therefore for those who engage in the antithesis of harmony, they threaten their very right to existence.
The swallowing of Dasan and Aviram was not because the humble Moshe was avenging his honor. It was the natural result of people who are at odds with making peace, people who argue for the sake of arguing. Dasan and Aviram rejected Moshe’s advances and showed their true colors, confirming they were disputatious personalities. They lost their life and existence retroactively, they had no right to life, and if they don’t exist nor can their children, that is why the ground swallowed them and their offspring.
Arguing cannot co-exist with life.
Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman (1886-1969) known as the Ponevezher Rov, was once approached by one of his students who was seeking guidance in the process of divorcing his wife. He was dissatisfied with his marriage, which stemmed from the way his wife kept their home. It was always untidy and dirty. Otherwise, he had no complaints against his wife.
“Let’s meet again tomorrow night to discuss this further,” the Rov said. “Please come to my home, where we can analyze your situation with no interruptions.”
The next evening, before the young man was due to arrive, the Rov and his wife messed up their apartment. They pulled the furniture out-of-place, emptied the cabinets haphazardly, and tracked dirt on the floors. By the time the student entered, their home looked as though a tornado had taken up permanent residence there. Anything to keep the young couple from further argument.
“Please, come in, come in,” the Rov said, and led the way through the chaos to his study. “Now, what was it that was bothering you?”
Having seen the Rov’s house in such disarray, the visitor gained fresh perspective on his own situation, and decided that divorce was not an option.
Where there is no Eruv, one should not go outdoors with ordinary sunglasses on Shabbos.