Divrei Torah

PARSHAS MATOS-MASEI 5777

In this week’s Parsha, the Jewish people go to war with Midian. G-d commanded Moshe to take vengeance against Midian because they brought the Jewish people to sins of idolatry and immorality, causing a terribly destructive plague among the Jewish people.

Rashi makes note that G-d commanded Moshe to take vengeance only against Midian and not Moav, even though Moav also was involved in the sinning. Moav acted out of fear of the Jewish people. However, Midian became involved in a conflict that had nothing to do with them. They acted with hostility toward the Jews even though the Jews had no quarrel with them. Does that sound familiar?

One of those involved in the sin of immorality was a woman by the name of Kozbi. She was a princess of Midian. Her father the king sent her to be an object of sin for the Jewish people. He was willing to sacrifice his daughter’s life as long as some Jews were killed in the process. Does that not sound familiar?

When Moshe spoke to the people, he told them “to inflict G-d’s vengeance against Midian”. But, this was vengeance for the Jewish people, so why does Moshe call it G-d’s vengeance? Rashi explains that one who stands against Israel is as if he is standing against G-d.

The Jewish people fought Midian just as G-d commanded Moshe and they killed a lot of people – men, women, children, the five kings of Midian and the wicked Bilaam who had incited the entire matter. Anybody who had been involved in causing the Jewish people to sin and seeking their destruction was removed.

Imagine if this war was broadcast by CNN. They would show you the horrible pictures of Midianites slain. The United Nothings would censure Moshe and the Jewish people. The Quartet would demand from Moshe to show restraint and limit the civilian casualties. CNN would not show you the Midianites plotting to destroy the Jewish people or any of the Jewish people who were killed in the plague by Kozbi, the suicide bomber. 

For some reason, we don’t find G-d calling on the Jewish people to show restraint or limit civilian casualties. To the modern, secular mind, this parsha is reprehensible. How could the Torah demand such behavior from the Jewish people? Aren’t the Jewish people are war mongers and out to kill the innocent? 

Well, the Torah is not necessarily politically correct. The Torah tells it like it is. The Torah defines good and evil. Good stays, evil goes. Anybody involved in causing the Jewish people this terrible sin was evil. Most of Midian was evil so they were to be disposed. The modern, secular mind thinks it knows better than G-d and G-d is wrong. To the Torah, that type of mind is completely off target and many times incomprehensible. It certainly is permitted to attempt to understand this incident but one cannot come to the conclusion that G-d is wrong. G-d is correct and we don’t always understand His ways.

As we have seen numerous times, the Jewish people were forced to fight a war for which they did not ask. However, they were united in their approach in the war against Midian and met with much success. That united approach is the strength of the Jewish people that we seek, especially during these “three weeks.”