After hearing the complaints of the rebellious Korach and his associates, Moshe cries out to G-d not to accept their offerings and insists that he had never wronged any of them in any way. As Moshe knew that his actions were legitimate, why was he so seemingly defensive about Korach’s criticism? After all, G-d knew that Moshe was in the right and had not wronged Korach or his allies – why did Moshe feel the need to make his case before Him?
Daniel Lifshitz suggests that perhaps we can answer based on a comment of the Tiferet Yisrael to the Mishna in Avot, “Who is wise? He who learns from every person.” The Tiferet Yisrael notes that some of the most important people to learn from are those who dislike us. They are the ones who shine a spotlight on our every shortcoming. Their criticism may include much exaggeration or even outright falsehood, but often it also contains a grain of truth. Focusing on these grains of truth can help us learn what areas of our conduct or character could use improvement. Moshe understood this concept and when Korach hurled accusations at him, he took advantage of the opportunity for honest self-assessment. His conclusion was that the complaints were baseless and said as much to Hashem, but only after going through introspection and accounting before Hashem. This type of reaction goes against most people’s instincts, but it can help turn unpleasant situations into opportunities for personal growth.