Our Torah Portion deals with the terrible dispute that Korach began against Moses and Aaron, together with Datan, Aviram, On ben Pelet, and another 250 people, all people of renown.
This dispute was so terrible that the Mishna called it a dispute not for the sake of heaven (Avot 5, Mishna 17 ) because it left an impression and had an influence on disputes for generations to come.
After the dispute began, Moses called Datan and Aviram to come to him, and they refused to come. It is written: "And Moses sent to call Datan and Aviram, the sons of Eliav, who said, "We will not come. Is it a trifling matter that you brought us out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the wilderness, and that you make yourself a prince over us?"(Numbers 16, 12-13)
Moses was very angry and also hurt. That was not the way to answer. But what was so offensive here? Was it that they said, "We will not come"?
Everyone already knew that Datan and Aviram did not accept Moses' authority, so obviously they would not meet him half way. The offensive point was that they said that Egypt, and not Israel, was a land flowing with milk and honey.
People knew from the beginning of the journey through the desert that Datan and Aviram were not ardent Zionists, but until this point their attitude had not been expressed in declarations. After this incident, things changed. Egypt is the land flowing with milk and honey, not Israel. Egypt is the centre of the world, not Israel. Egypt is the ideal country of their dreams, not Israel.
The Talmud tells us about the first man, "His dust was gathered from all over the world." (Sanhedrin 38). Rav Oshaya tells us in the name of Rav that the first man's body was made of dust from Babylon and his head of dust from the land of Israel. In effect, it has always been like that. Even when our bodies were in exile, our heads and hearts were in Zion. That is our history as a people.
"My heart is in the east and I am in the far west," wrote Yehuda Halevi in Spain in the twelfth century. That is why the words of Datan and Aviram are so offensive. To hear a Jew say that the land of Israel is not the land of his dreams is a very sad event.