For an explanation of the methodology of this series, see the introduction.

"The earth beneath them opened its mouth and swallowed them and their houses, and all the men who were with Korach and all the property." (Num. 16:32)

Peshat (basic meaning):

There is no Rashi on this verse.

Remez (hinted meaning):

Baal HaTurim:"Ha’adam asher l’Korach/The men who were with Korach"
The final letters of these words in reverse order spell 'charem/condemned'. This teaches that they were condemned because they joined with Korach.

...they were condemned because they joined with Korach.

Derash (interpretive meaning):

Targum Yehonatan: (verse 34)
"And all Israel who were round about them fled from the terror of their voices, as they cried and said, Righteous is the Lord, and His judgment is truth, and the words of His servant Moses are truth; but we are wicked who have rebelled against him: and the children of Israel fled when they heard; for they said, Lest the earth swallow us up."

Raba bar bar Chana: Once I was travelling, and our guide showed us where Korach and his cohorts were swallowed. There were two crevices. Smoke was exuding. The guide soaked wool in water, put it on the end of a spear and put it inside; it became singed. I was able to hear them saying 'Moses and his Torah are true, they (Korach and his congregation) are liars.' Every 30 days Purgatory returns them to here, like meat in a frying pan, and they say this.  (Sanhedrin 110a) 

Ramban: "All the men" were not his sons, for they were adults, righteous and good men, and their own merit stood in their stead so they were not swept away with their father. However, Korach had non-Jewish slaves and had purchased Egyptians, Ethiopians, and Canaanites as members of his household, and they were punished as part of their possessions — those of Korach's men — for they were punished both in their persons and their bodies. Perhaps there were some Israelites as sojourners in Korach's house, and they were influenced by his counsel and were punished.

Lubavitcher Rebbe: Why were some of Korach's group swallowed up by the earth while others were consumed by fire? (v. 35) Korach's rebellion was an attempt to upset the healthy balance between the desire for spirituality and the need for action in the physical world. Thus those members of the group who overemphasized the spiritual were consumed by fire from above, whereas those who had distorted the importance of physical deeds were swallowed up by the earth from below. In this vein, the Mishnah describes Korach's deeds as "not for the sake of Heaven". (Avot 5:17) The Hebrew word for heaven, Shamayim, is composed of the words Aish/fire and Mayim/water. (Gen. 1:8, Rashi) This alludes to the fact that Korach's group wished to challenge "heaven" — namely the ability to harmonize the dynamic tension of soul and body, of fire and water.

Sod (esoteric, mystical meaning):

... it was Moses' decree that the earth needs to open her mouth.

Zohar Balak 209:
Rabbi Aba asked a difficult question. It is written: "And the earth opened her mouth" (Num. 16:32) and it is written: "And G‑d opened the mouth of the ass." Why the difference between the earth and the ass? Why is it not written that 'G‑d opened the mouth of the earth'? It is only that there, it was Moses' decree that the earth needs to open her mouth. And the earth performed the command of Moses by opening. It is not proper that G‑d should carry out an instruction commanded by Moses, seeing that Moses has decreed and instructed: "And the earth opens her mouth". (Ibid. 16:30) Hence, it performed the command, as written: "And the earth opened her mouth." However, here [concerning Balaam], there was no one who had decreed that it was only the wish of the Holy One, blessed be He. Since that was His desire, it is written: "And G‑d opened the mouth of the ass." It originated with him and through him, it occurred.

BeRahamim LeHayyim:
"And the earth opened her mouth"

Korach used the power of speech not for holy purposes. The Midrash says he offered hypothetical questions to Moses:
(1) why an all-blue tallit needs a single additional thread of blue, or (2) why a house full of holy writings needs a Mezuzah containing a sacred writing on its doorpost.

Korach's desire for illusory greatness, emerging out of his disappointment in his lot in life, "took him over" and caused him to play a dangerous game with G‑d's appointed leadership. His punishment was therefore 'mida-kineged-mida', tit for tat, just desserts. His main weapon was his mouth, and he was punished by The Mouth.

There is a Korach-complex inside all of us, as there is a Moses, a Aaron, as well as 250 sub-personalities needing a self-sense of being above the rest, broken shards of human beings competing to be invited to the important gatherings, fragmented pieces of the self valuing fame and reputation above humility and integrity.

May we seek connection over greatness and inner strength over external material manifestation. Amen

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