Moshe sent for Dosson and Aviram, sons of Eliav; and they said, “We will not come! (Numbers 16:12)

RASHI on 16:12: From here we learn that one should not persist in strife (Midrash Tanchuma, Korach 10), for you see that Moshe sought them out in order to conciliate them by peaceful words (Sanhedrin 110a).

Many times, we are confronted with a situation that feels like – “I have been here before.” We therefore feel secure that we know what the outcome will be. In a sense we have déjà vu. Yet, this feeling – though it may be comfortable – is not necessarily fair. Let us use as an example a child, who was rambunctious in school and he left behind a blazing trail of… He went to summer camp and found a role model who encouraged him to change his way of life. He returned to the classroom in September determined to turn over a new leaf. Yet the faculty looked at him as a criminal with a long record. While they claimed, “we are going to give you a new chance this year”, the weight of history was against him. We truly feel bad for this child and we point a finger at the faculty for being unfair.

Yet, are we any different?

When we walk into shul, our place of work, or any place where we know the people that we will meet, we mentally prepare ourselves for the encounters based on our history of relationships with those people. One would have assumed that Moshe had a clear idea of what would happen if he tried to approach Dosson and Aviram and placate them. I would like to remind you, says Rav Tzvi Yosef Dunner Z”L of London, Moshe’s first interactions with Dosson and Aviram were decades before. Not only that, but because of the actions of these two men he had to flee Egypt. They appear again when Moshe tells us not to collect manna on Shabbos because it will not fall. Again, Dosson and Aviram are there to try to “disprove” Moshe Rabbeinu. One would imagine that it is a forgone conclusion based on past results not to bother to mollify them. Yet Chazal point out that one should be so careful about arguments, that even in such situations, one should try to put out the fires before they spread. Rabbi Dunner adds a different explanation from a halachic perspective. There is an idea in halacha called a ”chazakah” – something that happens time and time again we can assume will continue in the same pattern. According to this reading of Rashi (12:16) we are given a halachic directive: Arguments are so severe that we drop the general rule of chazakos and we leave no stone unturned to try to avoid spreading them further.

There is a joke said about a poor man who wanted to solicit money from a rich Jew. In the past, this rich Jew would often give an insultingly small donation, but today the poor man had no other alternative but to solicit these funds from him. After he rang the bell, he braced himself for the humiliation that he expected to receive in a few moments.  As he waited, he became even more agitated. Yet, on the other side of the door, the rich man had had a wonderful day and was actually in a generous mood. No matter. As soon as the rich man opened the door, the poor man screamed at him “Why do you treat me like this?!”

Let us try to be careful and judge each individual situation on its own merit.