One of the strangest things about the human mind is that people often search for the flaws in others and later are remembered for those flaws. The conventional image of Korach exemplifies this, as he is remembered, primarily, for one mistake that he makes. Many commentators discuss Korach at great length with some viewing him a Tzaddik and others scrutinizing him a Rasha. Every Shabbat we recite a line that sheds light on this idea. The last letters of each word of the phrase "Tzaddik KaTamar Yifrach," “a righteous man will flourish like a date,” spell Korach. Some use this to explain that Korach is not a bad person; rather, he just needs more time to develop and blossom.
To end his rebellion, Korach and his followers are swallowed up by the land. One can say that at that point Korach is finally mature enough to achieve his full potential as a Tzaddik. The reason Korach rebels is because he wants a nation in which everybody is his or her own king. He does not want Moshe and Aharon in control of the entire nation and he wants different or more leaders. However, both Moshe and Hashem know that if Korach’s wishes would happen, many people would become corrupted. They understand that the only functional way to rule a nation is to have one leader. Moshe knows that if everybody has so much power, the people would give up on God, which would ultimately end the existence of their united nation. The problem with Korach is not that of wickedness; rather, it is that of ignorance. This ignorance is overcome many years later not by Korach himself but by Shmuel HaNavi, a direct descendant of Korach. A few hundred years after the Korach incident, Shmuel appoints Sha’ul to be the first king of the Am Yisrael. Why is it acceptable for Shmuel to appoint a king while it is not okay for Korach to do so? What is the difference between these two seemingly parallel stories.
One answer that is suggested is that Korach believes that each ruler would have all of the power. There would be no need for Hashem in his system. In Shmuel, the text very clearly shows that the king wouldn’t serve any purpose without God. The text reads, "VaYeilechu Chol HaAm HaGilgal VaYamlichu Sham Et Sha’ul Lifenei Hashem BaGilgal," "and all of the nation went to Gigal and there they made Sha’ul king before Hashem in Gilgal" (Shmuel I 11:15). From here we see that the problem with Korach is not what he tries to do; rather, it is his thought process and how he plans on doing it. Korach’s problem may be that he is so obsessed with power and jealousy that he ignores the fact that no matter what, Hashem will do whatever He thinks is best for the Jews. To Korach it seems that the reason why Moshe is chosen by Hashem as the leader for the Jewish people is because that he is being favored. In truth, the only reason is that it is in the best interest of the future of the Jewish people. While Korach has the Jews’ best interest in mind, Korach’s desires are unrealistic and because of this he is reputed as a bad man despite being the “pious one waiting to blossom.”