Korach, Datan and Aviram and 250 leaders of Israel rebel against the authority of Moshe and Aharon. The rebellion results in their being swallowed by the earth. Many resent their death and blame Moshe.
A Truesome End
“..and they shall descend into the pit alive” (16:30)
Of all the ways that a person can die, being swallowed by the earth, either by quicksand or by falling into a seismic fissure opening and closing over his head, must rate as one of the more horrific.
Thus, Moshe’s prayer to Gd that Korach and his followers should suffer such a gruesome end by the earth opening its mouth and consuming them alive seems out of character.
Really, the reverse is true. Because of the severity of Korach’s rebellion, Moshe was concerned that Korach and his cohorts had totally written themselves out of the script of the World-to-Come, and he wanted to give them time to be able to repent before they died — something difficult to do if you’re suddenly struck by a bolt out of the blue.
Rabbi Eliezer says in Sanhedrin 105: “And the earth covered them.” Concerning them (Korach and his followers) it says (Shmuel I) “Gd brings death and gives life, lowers to the pit and raises up” — for also to the congregation of Korach there is a portion in the World-to-Come — for life remained in them so they could repent.
- Source: In the name of Rabbi Yissocher Dov of Belz