Dora Bas Rivka Silver O'H
Perhaps We Over-Reacted
Every Tribe sent representatives to the national meeting at Mitzpah. The Levite man told his story and the nation demanded an explanation from the Tribe of Benjamin. Benjamin refused to yield to national authority, insisting that they would deal with the situation as an internal matter. This was unacceptable to the rest of the Tribes, who declared war on Benjamin. Benjamin's army was 26,700. The rest of the nation had assembled an army of 400,000. (Perhaps Benjamin should have just handed over the offending members of their Tribe.)
In the first battle, Benjamin killed 22,000 Israelites. In the second battle, Benjamin killed another 18,000. Finally the 11 Tribes asked of G-d whether they should go to battle against Benjamin and G-d said yes, adding that they would then be victorious. (They had asked once before, but that was after they prepared for war. In other words, the first time they asked, their actions showed that they had already decided before asking.)
In the third battle, Israel ambushed Benjamin by surprise. Israel killed 25,100 Benjaminites. Benjamin retreated and was pursued. 18,000 soldiers were killed in battle and another 7,000 were killed in flight. 600 escaped to the Rock of Rimon, where they stayed for four months. The cities of Benjamin were eradicated, so that only the 600 refugees at Rimon survived.
A short Insight into Judges, Chapter 20The Zohar in Parshas Sh'mini gives us an insight into why so many of B'nei Yisrael died before wiping out most of the males of the tribe of Binyamin.
Hashem as many messengers, the Zohar relates, to fulfill His mandates. Even the wild animals are his agents. As the possuk says, (Vayikra 26), “I will send the animals of the field onto you and they will leave you bereft of your children.” Even the non Jews and even the Jews are the agents of Hashem. Sometimes a rasha is handed over to a tzadik. However, a rasha is never sent as an agent to punish another rasha.
How do we know this? We know this from the story of “Pilegesh B'givah”. Even though the tribe of Binyamin was liable, many battles were fought. Many from the other tribes perished in the initial battles before the tribe of Binyamin was almost wiped out.
Why did so many die first? They also were liable. Because they had significant liabilities in Hashem's ledger, they were not fit to be agents for punishment. However, once the other tribes were left with only those that were meritorious and thus fit to be agents of Hashem, did the tribe of Binyamin succumb.
Similarly, the Chofetz Chaim warns (Shmiras Halashon Sha'ar Hatvunah 17) that if we are ever about to meet out some punishment, verbal or otherwise, we must be careful to think beforehand about our standing with regard to the matter at hand. Do we have the same shortcoming? Do we commit the same type of offense with others? If we do, we should not be the ones carrying out the punishment. In addition, even if we have not committed the offenses for which we are currently punishing an offender, we must be careful, subsequently, not to commit a similar offense. Otherwise, retroactively we are considered unfit to be carrying out a punishment.