Parshat Korach begins by describing Korach and two hundred and fifty 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 mentions what it is that Korach actually took. Two questions can be asked: Why start with a verb that’s never followed by its object, and how is being swallowed by the ground (16:31-33) an appropriate punishment?
Rabbi Shlomo 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 creating 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, transforming from a taker of power into a giver of nutrients as he became part of the soil that supports all that grows from it.
We learn here that the cure for taking is to be surrounded by giving. Just like arguing can be done in a constructive way, so too can we tackle our own limitations or conflicts by surrounding ourselves and our families with positive, supportive, and giving environments.