“So they got away from the dwelling of Korach, Datan and Aviram on every side; and Datan and Aviram came out and stood at the door of their tents, and their wives and their sons and their children.” (Bamidbar 16:27)
Come and see how bad is dispute; the Earthly court does not punish until one shows signs of physical maturity, and the Heavenly court not until age 20, and here even nursing infants were punished. (Rashi)
The paradigm of dispute for the sake of Heaven are the arguments posed by Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel. Their goal was to find the true meaning of the commandments of Hashem. The example most cited as a dispute not for the sake of Heaven but rather for personal reasons is the dispute of Korach and his adherents, who publicly belittled the teachings of Moshe.
Rashi points out that it is quite unusual for the children to be held accountable for misconduct, yet here they were among those who were punished with death. How come they were not exempted? Perhaps when they grew up they would have seen the bad behavior of their elders and learned a lesson that would have made them fearful of getting involved in any attacks on the Torah. Why, then, were they executed with the adults?
There was once a pedagogue who asked his students what it was they were missing at home. One answered that his home did not have a piece of electronic equipment that most of his friends had. Another replied that he did not have a bed and had to sleep with his brother sharing his bed. Each student offered private information about what he lacked at home, except one who proudly announced, “In my house, we are not missing anything!”
The teacher, who knew that this boy’s family was extremely poor, was taken aback.
“How do you know that?” he asked.
“Well,” the young man offered, “it was just a few days ago that there was knock on the door and my father peeked through the window and saw a group of uninvited guests outside. He said to my Mom, ‘This is all we need!’”
Any teacher will agree that the statements made by children reveal what is going on at home. The Gemara teaches that “what a child says in the marketplace he heard from his father or his mother.”
Datan and Aviram came out and stood at the door of their tents, and their wives and their sons and their children (Bamidbar 16:27). When those children saw and heard the brazen heretical behavior of their parents, they joined in, in attitude and deed.The Heavenly judgment was based on the certainty of their future conduct.
Today, many people are fearful of omnipresent surveillance and security cameras recording 24/7 the goings-on in their view, yet they are oblivious to their own children who are watching and “recording” all their words and actions. It was once considered cute for a child to dress up and mimic a parent, but today it could be embarrassing. Caution is the buzzword today. The spies are everywhere. The cameras are recording. The flaws are being absorbed. Improve yourself and help your offspring grow into the adults you pray for them to become.