A War Against Misunderstandings by Yakir Forman


In Parashat Mattot, Mosheh is commanded to lead Bnei Yisrael in a war of revenge against Midyan, who had previously seduced Bnei Yisrael to sin and caused a plague. Hashem’s words to Mosheh are, “Nekom Nikmat Bnei Yisrael MeiEit HaMidyanim Achar Teiaseif El Amecha,” “Take vengeance for Bnei Yisrael from the Midyanim; afterward you will be brought in unto your people (i.e., pass away)” (BeMidbar 31:2). Why is the war connected to Mosheh’s death? Furthermore, why is Mosheh’s death contingent on his leading Bnei Yisrael in the war? It seems that this war could be accomplished by any leader of Bnei Yisrael!

 The Ketav Sofer explains that a king who leads a war of revenge has one of two possible motivations. It could be that he genuinely loves his subjects and wants to defend them and take vengeance for them. It is also possible, however, that he simply wants to strengthen his own kingship. Since he cannot be a strong king without subjects, he must defend his subjects and, through wars of revenge, prevent other nations from continually attacking them.

 Bnei Yisrael could have viewed Mosheh as having either motivation. Hashem told Mosheh that his death was contingent on the war so He could prove to Bnei Yisrael Mosheh’s true motivation. If Mosheh was interested in strengthening his own kingship, he would certainly delay the war. Immediately staging the war would quicken Mosheh’s death and end his kingship instead of strengthening it. Yet this is exactly what Mosheh does. He truly loves Bnei Yisrael and wants to take vengeance for them even when such action will kill him.

 It is important to go out of one’s way to prove one’s true good motivations. It is human nature to misunderstand other humans, and misunderstandings of motivations can lead to unnecessary hate between two parties. Just as Hashem connected a war to Mosheh’s death to prove Mosheh’s good intentions, we should act kindly towards those who could have misunderstood us to clarify our good intentions. Only then will there be complete Achdut among Klal Yisrael.

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