We read in Parashat Korach of the uprising led by Korach against the leadership of Moshe and Aharon. After addressing Korach and his fellow Leviyim who sought the privileges of the priesthood, Moshe sent a message to two other leaders of the uprising – Datan and Aviram – summoning them to meet. Datan and Aviram brazenly refused Moshe’s invitation, and delivered a message of scorn and derision in response. They concluded, “Even if you gore those people’s eyes, we will not come up [to meet with you]” (16:14). A number of commentators, including the Rashbam, Ibn Ezra and Seforno, explain this as a euphemistic reference to deception. Datan and Aviram were saying to Moshe, “Do you really think you can blind them” – referring to what they considered Moshe’s deceiving the people into submitting to his leadership.
Rashi, however, explains differently, claiming that the expression “these people” actually refers to Datan and Aviram themselves. They were saying to Moshe, “Even if you gore out our eyes, we will not come up.” Rashi explains that rather than make reference to even the hypothetical loss of their eyes, they said instead, “these people’s eyes,” but the intent was their own eyes. They were expressing to Moshe how adamantly they refused to speak to him, that no matter what pain or harm he might want to inflict, they will still refuse his summons.
The Chafetz Chayim (cited in Rav Matis Blum’s Torah La-da’at) noted the significance of the fact that Datan and Aviram emphasized their refusal to come meet with Moshe to resolve their conflict even if this meant losing their eyesight. It shows us the unfortunate tendency that people have to persist in a fight even when the fight is to their detriment. People sometimes prefer pursuing conflict even when their own interests are far better served by yielding. They are prepared to endure the tension and stress of a fight for the sake of triumphing over the other party – just as Datan and Aviram declared their willingness to lose their eyes rather than end their uprising against Moshe. Their example reminds us to think very carefully before instigating an argument or conflict to determine whether this will serve our long-term interests. More often than not, the comfort and serenity of peaceful relations are far more valuable than anything we potentially stand to gain by initiating or continuing a conflict.