When dealing with Parshat Korach, many get an impression that Korach was a reckless individual who was obsessed with “kavod”. But the sages portrayed Korach quite differently, and through their image of Korach we will try to learn a valuable lesson from our parsha.
What Happened to Such Brilliance and “Ruach HaKodesh”?
Rashi comes and repeats the question asked by the sages: “Now Korach who was prudent, why did he commit this folly?” In other words, it is obvious that Korach was not some nut, but rather a “gadol” in Torah, as we will soon see. He also appreciated the greatness of Moshe Rebbeinu, as the parsha itself testifies to, and knew that Moshe was not after the “kavod”. And so he should have known that there would be some serious Divine backlash to the steps he was taking. This being the case: “Why did he commit this folly??” And Rashi answers: “His eyes deceived him; he saw a great chain (i.e., a chain of great men) issuing from him, (viz.) Shmuel, who is weighed against Moshe and Aaron. (Korach) said: Because of him I shall be saved. And twenty-four ‘watches’ will arise from his son’s sons, all of them prophesying through ‘Ruach HaKodesh’ … (Korach) said: Is it possible that all this greatness is destined to arise from me and I shall remain silent? Therefore he associated himself to come to that prerogative: for he heard from the mouth of Moshe that all of them would perish and one would be saved…”
And here we must ask a great question: We are talking about a tremendousTorah giant with “Ruach HaKodesh” who was capable of seeing generations and generations into the future! How then, could a man with such great vision and prophecy walk like a blind man in an alley, unable to understand something which any thinking, logical person could understand who does not possess any special “Ruach HaKodesh”?
The Refusal to See the Truth
From here we learn a shocking lesson: Even a “gadol” in Torah like Korach, who had the ability to see way into the future and reveal secrets of hidden Torah, is liable not to see simple things when he is not objective regarding the matter. How does this happen? He simply refuses to see what is not comfortable for him to see! In such a situation, even if he has a perfect Divine picture before his very eyes, he will force himself to close them so that “he won’t get confused by the facts”. And this is what we have here. Korach’s uncontrollable desire to be the Cohen HaGadol blinds him, and causes him to make calculations of folly which even a small child would not make. In fact, not only did “Ruach HaKodesh ” not help him, but he actually used this very “Ruach HaKodesh” to convince himself more and kindle hisself-deception – “His eyes deceived him!”
To what is this analogous? To the fellow who shot arrows, and someone comes along and is amazed to see how all the arrows have landed exactly in the center of the target. He asks: How is your shooting so accurate? He says: First of all, I shoot. Only afterwards do I go and make a circle around the arrow. Korach, too, has his target of being the Cohen HaGadol. He uses his brilliance to plan how to create an argument in which he already decided the outcome. He uses any possible claim that might work to strengthen his support among different groups. He is the consummate politician. And indeed, he succeeds in carrying the people with him, until he is swallowed into the ground…
How a Leader is Chosen
The lesson is clear. Certainly this is relevant when relating to the empty politicians of today. But unfortunately, it also applies to people who really are great in Torah – such as the “gedolim” like Korach and 250 heads of the Sanhedrin that bit the dust with him. (Rashi, verse 1), or the spies (tzadeekim!) who had the support of the Sanhedrin (Rashi, 14:1). All the more so does all this apply to the orphaned generation we live in today, where smallness of faith is what characterizes our leaders. Therefore, we must remember that even the “gedolim” and the possessors of “Ruach HaKodesh” can fall into the trap of subjectivity and personal interest, thus causing them to err on various issues. We learn from here that the test of the true Jewish leader (or if one is searching for a mentor to show him the way, he must seek out): He who has “Ahavat Yisrael” burning in his bones, and distances himself from all personal considerations. This is a true Jewish leader!