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Rabbi David Sperling

Tammuz 8, 5780
Was Korach a prophet or a Tzaddik or just regular wrong misled person? Thank you
Shalom, Thank you for your question. Korech is a very interesting figure in the Chumash. There are many commentaries that try to tackle exactly what his arguments with Moshe were. In general we know from the Ethics of the Fathers (5, 17) that his arguments were not from pure motives - “Every dispute that is for the sake of Heaven, will in the end endure; But one that is not for the sake of Heaven, will not endure. Which is the controversy that is for the sake of Heaven? Such was the controversy of Hillel and Shammai. And which is the controversy that is not for the sake of Heaven? Such was the controversy of Korah and all his congregation.” From this we see that he was certainly misled, and not a tzadik. In fact, he is listed as someone who has no portion in the world to come (Talmud Sanhedrin 109b). Even though he did have some level of spiritual vision, he was not a prophet. The Midrash teaches “Now since Korah was a clever man, how did he see fit to commit this folly? It is simply that his eyes misled him. He foresaw a great lineage stemming from himself, [e.g.,] Samuel, who was the equivalent of Moses and Aaron, as stated (in Ps. 99:6), “Moses and Aaron among his priests, and Samuel among those who call His name.” Moreover, the twenty-four [Levitical] shifts would stem from his descendants, all of whom would prophesy by the holy spirit, as stated (in I Chron. 25:5), “All these were sons of Heman.” (A descendant of Korah). He said, “Is it possible that, when this greatness is going to stem from me, I should perish?” But he did not foresee correctly, since his children would repent, and those [great ones] would stem from them. But Moses did foresee well.” From here we see that his spiritual vision was vastly impaired by his ego. He was the head of a family of the tribe of Levi, and as such was an important man in Israel – but his ego desired an even greater status. I hope this is of some help to you, Blessings.
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