Torah Insights for Shabbat Parashat
Rabbi Abraham Kupchik
July 25, 1998
In the parshah of Matos, G-d
commands Moshe to "exact the vengeance of the children of Israel from the
Midyanites," for their aggression toward the Jewish nation. This would be
Moshes last mission. Afterwards, G-d tells him, "You will be gathered to your
people" in death.
It would seem advantageous for Moshe
to have delayed the war against Midyan as long as possible. But Moshe immediately exhorts
the Jewish people "to exact the vengeance of G-d upon Midyan."
Rashi, quoting the Midrash, remarks
that even though Moshe knew that his death would follow the completion of this matter, he
carried it out with joy and did not delay.
A leader, especially one who leads
the Jewish people, must overlook personal advantageseven if it means relinquishing
his life. Moshe was asked to demonstrate for all generations the position of Jewish
Although Hashem referred to this war
as "the vengeance of the children of Israel," Moshe calls it "the vengeance
of G-d." Rashi explains that "one who stands before Israel is considered to be
standing before G-d."
The Jewish people represent G-d in
this world, and those who harm them are displaying a lack of faith in G-d. To carry the
designation, Jew, is to be a representative of G-d.
Thus, Moshe presents G-ds
command to the Jewish people as a lesson for all Jews to know that their purpose in life
is primarily to represent the existence of G-d. To defend the honor of the children of
Israel is to carry out the mitzvah of sanctifying G-ds name.
Rashi offers two reasons why Midyan,
and not Moav, is singled out for revenge by Israel.
The Moavites were afraid of what the
Jewish people might do to them. They were genuinely frightened by the prospects of being
conquered by this new nation. So they recruited the Midyanites to help them. But Midyan
had no reason to become involved in a fight that wasnt theirs.
Additionally, two great figures
would emerge from Moav, Ruth and Naamah the Ammonite. Midyan, though, offered
no redeeming future benefits to Israel.
We learn from the war with Midyan
that a country which offers nothing of value to our nation, and seeks only recognition for
itself and is ready to abuse the name of G-d for this purpose, has no reason to exist and
must be made an example for the rest of the world.
Moshe, at the same time, has to
become the example of the selfless leader of the Jews, whose only thrust is to make the
Jewish people a G-dly nation.
Rabbi Abraham Kupchik
Rabbi Kupchik is rabbi of
Congregation Beth-El of Long Beach in Long Beach, New York.
August 1-2, 1998
Torah Insights is brought to you every week as a
the Department of Jewish Education of the Orthodox Union.
Your comments are always welcome
Show Your Support The Cyber Home of Torah
OU Torah Insights 5758 Parasha Index
OU Torah Insights 5757 Parasha Index