The Sefas Emes teaches in the name of the Holy Jew of Peshis'cha that when detractors come up in opposition to the tzadik, they specifically attack him concerning a quality in which he has already achieved perfection. The Baal Shem Tov even suggests that the detractors of a tzadik are created from the husks which are shed as the tzadik strives for perfection in his character. Therefore, one who would come to accuse the tzadik, see in him only that which is similar to the husk from which he was created. He is limited to only a superficial understanding of the ways of the tzadik.

Korach accused Moses of arrogantly usurping power for himself and Aaron over the Jewish nation. We already know that Moses was the most humble man to ever walk the face of the earth. (Num. 12:3) Korach…was not able to perceive the leadership of Moses for what it really was…

Moses was the epitome of humility; there wasn't a trace of arrogance in his actions, in spite of the fact that he was the leader of the nation, spoke with G‑d face to face, and was revered or feared by all the inhabitants of the world. Everything he did was for the sake of the nation. Yet, to a truly arrogant person like Korach, Moses' every move was a proof of Moses' own arrogance.

Korach's perspective was childish and superficial. He was not able to perceive the leadership of Moses for what it really was. It is written, "...and jealousy causes the bones to rot." (Proverbs 12:4) This refers to Korach who lacked inner substance. Everything Korach did was external, for show - that he should appear very just and righteous. Moses and Aaron were the inner light of the Jewish nation. They were completely inner substance, a character which is often not easily discerned. Yet in Judaism, it is what counts.

This explains the two tests by which Korach was finally humbled. The essence of incense is fragrance, something which is completely internal and spiritual. The almond branch brought forth buds, a symbol of the the internal surfacing, taking precedence. When it came to tests that checked inner substance, Korach had no leg to stand on. Only the tribe of Levi and Aaron and his descendants possessed the inner substance necessary to represent the Jewish People in G‑d's service.

Arrogance must be battled until the day one dies. One can never be sure of himself until the day of one's death. (Avot 2:5) The Baal Shem Tov often declared, "Even after all of my achievements in the spiritual realm, I would give them all up just to be able to serve G‑d with the plain, simple, straight-forward faith of a child." Nevertheless, we have a record of the last words that left the pure and holy lips of the Baal Shem Tov: "Let not the foot of arrogance overtake me" (Psalms 36:12), he uttered. Even in his death the Baal Shem Tov was concerned lest even a trace of arrogance taint the holy service of his dying!

[Adapted by Binyomin Adliman; First published in B'Ohel Hatzadikim, Korach 5759 and 5757;]