Parashat Korach relays the story of the revolt staged by Korach and 250 other leaders of Bnei Yisrael against Moshe and Aharon (BeMidbar 16:2). This begs the question – how did Korach manage to convince 250 prominent leaders of Bnei Yisrael to join him in his rebellion against Moshe? This was the same Moshe through whom the plagues came unto Egypt, led Bnei Yisrael out from slavery, split the sea, gave them the Torah, and performed countless other miracles, all with the help of Hashem.
One answer is that Korach’s argument against Moshe was extremely appealing. His approach was one that made it seem like he was not revolting to get more power for himself, but rather because it was his moral obligation to do so. Korach caused the people to think about this by asking questions like, “What right does Moshe have to be the sole leader of Bnei Yisrael?” and “Why should we not choose our leaders democratically” (16:3)? These were all seemingly valid points, which led to the feasibility of Korach gathering some followers.
However, despite the people’s beliefs, the points that Korach made could not have been more wrong. Firstly, Korach’s seemingly logical claims cloaked his extremely immoral motives. By openly rebelling against Moshe and Aharon, he did not make Klal Yisrael better, as he claimed he wished to do, but rather, he tore it even further apart. His revolt was merely an attempt to benefit himself and reject Hashem’s decisions. Secondly, though democracy is inherently a good thing and is worth fighting for, Hashem’s wishes are more important than democracy. Often leaders will lie and cheat and say things they do not actually mean with the lone purpose of pleasing their audiences. We are often fooled by these facades that overshadow the true inner qualities of a person, which only Hashem truly knows. When Hashem chose Moshe to lead the Jewish people, it was because He knew that Moshe was the perfect person to be the leader. He knew that often leaders pretend to believe in one thing or another just to gain favor in the people’s eyes, but the leader of Bnei Yisrael could not and would not have such a poor quality. Hashem did not allow for a democratic electing of a leader because Bnei Yisrael could not be trusted to be “Chachamim” in this case. As the Pasuk states, “HeChacham Einav BeRosho,” “The wise man, his eyes are in his head” (Kohelet 2:14), which we understand to mean (Rashi ad. loc s.v HeChacham Einav BeRosho) a Chacham is one who makes careful considerations about the future and avoids making rash decisions. Bnei Yisrael would not have looked ahead, and therefore, would not have proceeded in a prudent fashion with their choice of leader, which would have led to grave consequences down the road.
People often try to mislead others to do the wrong thing by making it very appealing and presenting it as the right thing. Torah addresses this issue several times, including, arguably the most famous one, “VeLifnei Iveir Lo Titein Michshol,” “Before a blind man, do not place a stumbling block” (VaYikra 19:14), which we interpret to mean (Rashi ad. loc s.v VeLifnei Iveir Lo Titein Michshol) as an exhortation to not offer bad advice.. We are faced with leaders who appear to believe in one thing, but are more than willing to turn against their beliefs in the blink of an eye, just to get the extra votes. Our Sages teach that one of the prominent reasons that Moshe had a speech impediment was to show that he was not chosen for his physical appearance, but rather because mentally and emotionally, he was the most qualified to be the leader. We must all strive to see past the surface of every situation, whether it concerns politicians who may lie about their views, or more importantly, our friends, who may try to pressure us into doing something wrong, and hopefully, with Hashem’s help, we will be able to accomplish this.