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Parshas Matos

Rabbi Pesach Siegel

Parshat Matos

Oct 21, 2009

 

 

Hashem commanded Moshe Rabeinu to exact the vengeance of the Bnei Yisroel from the Midianim. Moshe, assigned Pinchos to the task of meting out Hashem's vengeance to the Midianim. (1)

Why Pinchos? Our sages tell us, to avenge the sale of his maternal grandfather, Yosef Hatzaddik, who was sold to Mitzrayim by the Midianim. (2)

Does the Torah mean to tell us that others might have been more qualified, but Pinchos was chosen to lead the Bnei Yisroel in battle because of some personal vendetta, to even the score, so to speak?

It would seem obvious that there must be some kind of link between the two events.

A few points may first need to be clarified.

In last week's sedrah the Torah highlights the purity of the Bnei Yisroel's lineage. Hashem enwraps the name of each and every family of Israel with the letters of His name, the "yud" and the "heh". The "yud" represents the purity of the male members and the "heh" the female members of Klal Yisroel. (3)

There was not a single instance throughout their entire stay in Mitzrayim of an intentional immoral encounter between an Egyptian and a Jew. This, despite the difficult circumstances of being enslaved in what was known as the bastion of immorality for 210 years, and not being their own masters. Add to this the additional element of this period being prior to the receiving of the Torah and this accomplishment assumes colossal proportions. (4)

And yet, when faced with the trial of the daughters of Midian, men who are genuine tzaddikim fall prey to their wiles. Where is the self control exhibited all those years in Mitzrayim? Why do their defenses fail them? Where was the heavenly assistance (siyata dishmaya) guaranteed to those who seek it?

To understand this we must be aware that the steadfastness of the Bnei Yisroel in Mitzrayim was not due to their own efforts. Yosef Hatzaddik preceded their coming down to Mitzrayim. He laid down the "ground rules". In a display of control beyond the constraints of nature he demonstrated that Klal Yisroel remains pure and enclosed within themselves. To the consternation of his mistress, the wife of Potifar, he created a fact on the ground, a reality, that Egyptians have no mastery over the children of Yaakov. His act of self control brought about a transformation in the very essence of Klal Yisroel. (5)

In theory, this should have served as a protection for Klal Yisroel for each and every forthcoming immoral encounter. In theory yes, but in actuality no.

Yosef's unique place among his siblings was not adequately recognized. The sale of Yosef by his brothers is beyond our comprehension. But it happened, and it left an impression. If Yosef is the one who inoculates Klal Yisroel against the wild winds of immorality, what is the repercussion of selling Yosef in slavery?
They are removing their own self protection.

To whom did they sell him? To the Midianim! (6) They gave the Midianim control over Yosef. He was to be their slave. A self inflicted wound of the utmost gravity. Through their act they effected a weakness in the foundation of Klal Yisroel, specifically in regards to Midian. (7)

Who was the initiator of the proceedings against Yosef Hatzaddik? Shimon. (8) Centuries later his descendant Zimri would lack the requisite protection to defend himself against his nemesis Kazbi.

The Torah calls the upcoming war with Midian "Vengeance". (9) Vengeance is not mere punishment. Vengeance is retribution, what you have done to me I will do back to you. It is a reversal of sorts. It is not sufficient to punish the Midianim for their acts against Klal Yisroel, the process must be reversed. If control over one's passions have been surrendered to Midian, then control must be regained. (10)

Pinchos is the one chosen to enact this vengeance. Through his victory control was resumed. Only an army led by him could achieve the sought after result. It was a spiritual battle as well as a physical one. The members of his army were limited to those considered tzaddikim. (11) Normally, when going to battle this was sought after but in this case a deeper reason may have been behind it. It was a battle to recapture the "tzidkus" (righteousness) of Yosef Hatzaddik.

Klal Yisroel returned victorious from the so called "physical" war, but they spared the very women who caused them to sin. This caused Moshe to come to anger. (12) The "nekama" (vengeance) was not complete until they eradicated the ones who controlled them and caused them to sin.

Perhaps this is why Hashem commands Moshe to exact vengeance "from" the Midianim. (13) The act of war was actually an act of regaining what was long lost.

(1) Bamidbar 31,6
(2) Rashi Bamidbar 31,6
(3) Kli Yakar 26,5
(4) Medrash Rabbah VaYikrah 32,5
(5) Kli Yakar Breishis 39,2
(6) Breishis 37,28 (Rashbam)
(7) Harav Moshe Shapiro shlita
(8) Rashi Breishis 42,24 & 49,5
(9) Bamidbar 31,2
(10) HaRav Moshe Shapiro shlita
(11) Rashi Bamidbar 31,3
(12) Bamidbar 31,14 & 31,16 (Rashi)
(13) Bamidbar 31,2

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