The first miracle disproving the claims of Korach and his followers was when the earth opened up and swallowed them, and fire came and killed the 250 men who tried to offer incense instead of the kohanim. (Bamidbar 16:31-35) Now one would think that’s pretty definitive, and things would end there. However, how did the masses react? “The whole congregation of Benei Yisrael complained about Mosheh and about Aharon, saying: ‘You have killed the nation of Hashem!’” (17:6) Mosheh and Aharon retreat to the Ohel Mo’eid, upon which the cloud demonstrating Hashem’s Presence descended. A plague ensues. And still, the matter isn’t over. Aharon’s role as kohein is demonstrated by his taking ketores and creating a border beyond which the plague can not past. And still the matter isn’t ended.Finally, each sheivet’s leader takes a stick, writes his name on it, and they are placed together in the Ohel Mo’ed. Only Aharon’s stick buds, flowers, and grows almonds. And finally, the masses accept Hashem’s judgment. What’s the difference between the earth opening up and the plague on one hand, and the flowering staff on the other?
One striking difference is that the first miracles aimed at vanquishing evil. However, that didn’t resolve the confrontation, not only one instead embraced and built upon the good.
The same is true in internal conflict. When addressing a destructive emotion or habit, one can gain a measure of success battling the midah directly. However, in that way the war is never won; it just continues battle after battle. Instead one has to build upon the more positive midah whose weakness lead to the existence of the negative. Rather than attacking a low frustration threshold, build patience; instead of trying to whittle away one’s stinginess, build generosity. The difference is largely one of attitude, but we can create permanent change only by building, not destroying. Particularly in our generation, one that responds more to carrots than sticks.
And it is also true when developing our children’s’ personalities as parents. As R’ Shelomo Wolbe titled his book “Zeri’ah uBinyan beChinukh — Planting and Building in Education.”