Parshat Korach begins by describing Korach and his 250 people’s claims for more authority and power. The very first word used is “and he (Korach) took” (16:1), yet the Torah never explicitly explains what it is that Korach actually took. Two questions can be asked: Why start with a verb that’s never associated with what was taken, and how is being swallowed by the ground (16:31-33) an appropriate punishment?
Rabbi Riskin explains that there are two different types of disputes. One dispute is for the sake of learning and appreciating other perspectives, such as the disputes between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel. Another type of dispute is done for the sake of standing out and to create a divide, such as the dispute of Korach. This could help us answer our questions: Korach took for the sake of taking and argued for the sake of argument. The punishment and cure for such behavior was to be swallowed by the earth beneath. Earth gives nutrients to what grows in it and supports all that is on top of it.
The cure for taking is to be surrounded by giving. Just like arguing can be done in a constructive way, so could anything else we do. It all starts with understanding our own personal motives and surrounding ourselves and our families with positive, supportive and giving environments.