Rashi, commenting on Parashat Korach (16:7), cites the Midrash Tanchuma as noting that Korach was, inherently, too intelligent to make the foolish mistake of mounting a revolt against the authority of Moshe and Aharon. He was capable of such a mistake, the Midrash explains, only because “eino hitato” – “his eye misled him.” Endowed with prophetic insight, Korach foresaw that his progeny would include the prophet Shemuel, as well as distinguished Levites singing in the Beit Ha-mikdash. Seeing this greatness that awaited his family, Korach assumed that already then he deserved a position of leadership and distinction, and so he set his sights upon deposing Moshe.
An insightful explanation of the Midrash’s comments is suggested by Rav Moshe Greenwald, in his Arugat Ha’bosem. Rav Greenwald notes Chazal’s timeless proverb in (Tamid 32a), “Eizehu chakham – ha-ro’eh et ha-nolad” – a “wise” person is one who foresees and anticipates the future outcome of his decisions. The precise meaning of the word “nolad” is discussed in Masekhet Nedarim (30b), where the Gemara demonstrates that this term can refer to either those who have already been born, or those who will be born in the future. And thus when Chazal define “wisdom” as the ability to see the “nolad,” Rav Greenwald asserts, they refer to the ability to keenly observe the present and also anticipate the future outcome of present conditions. One cannot anticipate how present conditions will unfold without accurately understanding those conditions. And thus the “wisdom” of being “ro’eh et ha-nolad” necessarily includes a keen perception of the present, an indispensable prerequisite for preparing for the future.
Returning to Korach, Rav Greenwald notes that the Midrash, as cited by Rashi, speaks of Korach’s vision in the singular form: “eino hitato” – “his eye misled him.” Korach was a man of vision who could see into the future, but he failed to first properly assess the present. He used his “future eye” to see his descendants rise to prominence, but he did not utilize his other “eye” to see what was right there in front of him – the obvious reality that Moshe was God’s loyal prophet who faithfully and selflessly led the nation in accordance with the will of the Almighty. Korach saw keenly with one eye, but not with the other; he had the exceptional ability to look ahead to the future, but failed to see what was right in front of him.
We must ensure not to allow ambitious goals and dreams to blind us to more basic and immediate matters. Before we dream and aspire to greatness, we must first tend to our elementary obligations, laying the foundations upon which we can then build to seek the towering heights of which we dream.