Hey, he has a point!
If we look into Korach's complaint in this week's Parsha, we have to admit he may have a point. "The whole nation, every individual, is holy", Korach exclaims. Rashi adds the punch line- We all heard God's voice at Mount Sinai. This is true. Although, to be accurate, the first two commandments came straight from Hashem. But the remaining eight commandments needed to be said by Moshe, as an intermediary. This was due to the nation being afraid of God's great voice. The Talmud (Shabbat 88) even stated that the people died and were revived. The nation then pleaded with G-d to not force them to hear His voice directly, but only through Moshe.
Korach is manipulating a piece of truth and trying to have it affect the lifestyle of Am Yisrael. This definitely sounds very brave, noble and even idealistic. If we heard G-d's voice directly, and we did, then we are holy, inherently. The question is: can we live up to this high level of holiness?
Are your intentions pure?
Rashi brings two additional claims that led Korach to his argument. He was jealous of Moshe, as he felt he was the person who should have received the mantle of leadership–believing that he deserves it by virtue of his Yichus. According to this claim, it was all coming from a impure desire to lead. Korach had this idealistic viewpoint, even translated into a political movement, (we can imagine the banners and interviews of "the whole nation is holy" party…) but it was mixed and combined with personal impure motives. In many cases in life we can see goodwill and fine intentions combined with more base and inappropriate desires. Things are not always black and white.
The need for a handle bar
The Midrash in Tanchuma cites that Korach asked Moshe in a provocative way- "Does a tallit that is entirely Techelet need Tzitzit. This challenging question is trying to say- if we are holy do we need all the Mitzvot? If someone has a direct connection with Hashem, does he need to proceed with acts that are supposed to bring him closer to Hashem? The person is already connected without the Mitzvot, because each Jew is holy (he is filled with Techelet).
The truth is, that the Tzitzit and all the Mitzvot are our "handle bar"- our way to grasp on to holiness. This is our ladder that allows us to elevate ourselves. The Korachs of the world would probably also be against having rabbinical interpretation of the laws of the Torah. No need for a "broker" to go between the people and their Master of the Universe.
The brings down an amazing fact brought in the Midrash. Using Ruach Hakodesh, Korach saw that Shmuel, the righteous prophet, was to be his descendant, actually his great grandson. Shmuel is known to be the equivalent of Moshe and Aaron together. Therefore, Korach understood that he himself can also be that figure. It was a matter of (bad) timing. This great personality was only supposed to bloom a few generations later. Many times we see that the difference between a success and a failure is the timing.
Throughout history we see many movements, religions, ideological groups rise and fall. All of them have a core truth. Some are mixed with low goals such as control or money. It is our mission to look into these groups and declare what is to be accepted and what needs to be rejected or merely objected to.
Everything good in life is a matter of the right measurement, and accurate timing.
In short, one can say that Korach- he had a point.
Rabbi Yonatan Kirsch was born in NJ but grew up in Ginot Shomron after his parents moved to Israel. He teaches at the Hesder Yeshiva in Sderot, where he lives with his wife and family, after receiving his semicha from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. He is author of the book "Ma'alot Hamikve", published by Dabri Shir, and served as a combat soldier, is a certified tour guide.