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We find previously that G-d warned Moses that he would destroy the nation, but it seems quite clear that it was just a way of having Moses intervene on their behalf and was just a warning. Here we find that G-d actually "meant it" and the plague started. What happened here that made G-d "take of his gloves"?

Further clarification: The main difference here was that God did not take counsel from Moshe, not did he wait for a y response from Moshe, the plague just began. In previous encounters God gave Moshe time to intercede on their behalf.

  • Are you referring to the whole 'ground opening up and swallowing them alive' part of the story? If so, at least per the simple reading of the words, that punishment was specifically requested by Moshe (Numbers 16:29), so I don't know if that would be G-D 'taking off His gloves' per se. G-D just fulfilled Moshe's request. – Salmononius2 Jun 17 at 10:22
  • "it seems quite clear" Apparently not. Maybe God was serious every time and this is just the first time they didn't repent or whatever. – Double AA Jun 17 at 12:33
  • Perhaps the idea that now moshe actually fell has something to do with it – FalseMessiah Jun 30 at 2:26
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This question can be answered based on Rashi's understanding of Bamidbar 14:36, which addresses a similar question: Why didn't Moshe's prayer help the Spies as it helped the entire Jewish people when Hashem wanted to "strike them with pestilence and disown them"?

Bamidbar 14:36

וְהָ֣אֲנָשִׁ֔ים אֲשֶׁר־שָׁלַ֥ח מֹשֶׁ֖ה לָת֣וּר אֶת־הָאָ֑רֶץ וַיָּשֻׁ֗בוּ וילונו [וַיַּלִּ֤ינוּ] עָלָיו֙ אֶת־כָּל־הָ֣עֵדָ֔ה לְהוֹצִ֥יא דִבָּ֖ה עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ

As for the men whom Moses sent to scout the land, those who came back and caused the whole community to mutter against him by spreading calumnies about the land

Rashi on the verse explains why if their sin was complaining to Hashem (“How much longer shall that wicked community keep muttering against Me?" 14:27) does the verse mentions "muttering on him" (וילינו עליו) which is referring to Moshe.

So Rashi explains that the verse is coming to teach us why only the spys died and were not helped by Moshe's prayer. They intended to to "complain against him" against Moshe himself. Therefore, Moshe's prayer did not help them: אין קטיגור נעשה סניגור-a prosecutor cannot become a defendant, and Hashem judges a person מדה כנגד מדה.

וישבו וילינו עליו. וּכְשֶׁשָּׁבוּ מִתּוּר הָאָרֶץ הִרְעִימוּ עָלָיו אֶת כָּל הָעֵדָה בְּהוֹצָאַת דִּבָּה אוֹתָם אֲנָשִׁים וימתו

AND THEY RETURNED AND MUTTERED ON HIM: This meant: “the men whom Moses sent and who, when they returned (וישבו) from searching the Land, made the whole congregation murmur against him by making them utter an evil report, — those men died.

Therefore, it is understood why specifically Korach and his congregation died, and why Hashem "took off his gloves": Korach and his congregation attacked Moshe. Thus, there was no one that was on Moshe's caliber to pray for them and save them from G-ds anger as Moshe did so many times; Moshe couldn't because אין קטיגור נעשה סניגור. Another reason is מדה כנגד מדה because they fought Moshe they don't get Moshe's help.

All of this is based on Likkutei Sichos and footnote 29* there. See there for a more complete explanation as this was just a very short summary.

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  • Why is Moshe an attacker? He's an attackee – Double AA Jun 18 at 3:00
  • Are you sure you don’t mean the opposite concept that a defendant (Moshe against the Spies or Korach) can’t become a prosecutor (Moshe against Hashem, as it were)? – DonielF Jun 18 at 13:27
  • @DoubleAA See the first paragraph on page 48 and footnote 27. Although Moshe didn't prosecute the spies himself he was used as part of the prosecution. It is understood that they were killed because of their complaint against Hashem, but their vendetta with Moshe caused that Moshe wouldn't be able to daven for the spies, act as a defendant. – user6781 Jun 18 at 14:06
  • @DonielF I don't understand, why is moshe prosecuting Hashem? Look at the comment I just posted and the sources I noted. – user6781 Jun 18 at 14:07
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The gloves didn't just come off, Korach's punishment was already setup on the first Erev Shabbos as per Pikey Avos.

פי הארץ - לבלוע קורח ועדתו

Korach was different in that it wasn't just another sin, it was an attempted revolution to split the nation. It was the first of its kind so it was met with a harsh blow prepared for in advance.

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  • Thank you but the question was referring to the plague. – Mark Jun 18 at 16:51
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This wasn't the first time Hashem meted out immediate punishment in the desert. Even at the Golden Calf, Moshe's prayers were only successful in saving the entire nation from obliteration. Much of the nation was still killed that day: an unknown number killed by a "Sotah drink" made from ground-up Golden Calf (Exodus 32:20 with Avodah Zarah 44a), an additional 3000 killed by the sword (Exodus 32:27-28), and an additional unknown number killed by a plague (Exodus 32:35).

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