Money in Der Erd

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By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld

In Bamidbar, Perek Tes Zayin, posuk lamed bais, the posuk tells us that the earth opened its mouth and swallowed Korach and his people and their houses.


There is well known rule in the gemara in Kesubosdaf lamed zayinamud alef that says that when a person is deserving of two punishments, death and a requirement to pay money, we say that the person is only punished with the death sentence and is exempt from paying the money. This is so since a person can only be punished with one thing for one aveirah. If this is so, why were the houses and all the money of Korach and his following also swallowed up in the earth?


There are a number of answers to this question. The first answer is based on a gemara in Sanhedrin, daf nun daled, amud alef which says that if a person sins with an animal, both the person and the animal are killed. This is despite the fact that the animal cannot be held responsible. However, since the animal can always be pointed to and referred as the reason why the person was punished, the animal therefore needs to die in order to preserve the dignity of the sinner. Korach and his people became baalei gaavehbecause they were rich. Hashem did not want people pointing to the money and showing that that was the reason for Korach’s death. Therefore, the money had to be destroyed as well.


There is another answer that is based on the gemara in Sanhedrin, daf kuf yud that says that Korach was not from the people that were swallowed into the ground. He was also not from the people who were burned with the Ketores. Rather, he died in a mageifa later. The reason he was not part of the first two groups was because he never received a warning. Initially, he was only punished by having his money swallowed up. Subsequently, when he and the rest of the Yidden complained to Moshe that he killed the Bnei Yisroel, he was sentenced to death via mageifa. This was a new punishment for a different aveira. According to the other opinion in the gemara that Korach was both swallowed up in the ground and also burned, how can we understand why he received two punishments?  The Shem MiShmuel explains that the burning was just like the burning of Nadav and Avihu; the bodies stayed intact while a fire entered the nostrils and removed the neshama. This was therefore not considered two punishments, but rather that the neshama exited via sreifa and the guf was swallowed up by the ground.


The third answer is based on the Sforno. If a person loses money on the street, and a poor person picks it up, the owner is mekayem the mitzvah of tzedaka despite him not having any intention of giving tzedakaHashem did not want Korach to have this inadvertent zchus of giving money to a poor person, therefore his money was destroyed.


The Meshech Chochma gives another reason stating that Korachs money had the halacha of a “ir hanidachas” which is a city in which all its inhabitants served avodazora. The halacha was that everything in an “ir hanidachas” gets burned since it is a din of tashmishei Avoda Zora.


It is mind-boggling what machlokes causes. May we all be zoche to keep the peace.


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