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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Matot

The Parsha & Protective Edge

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I have, more than once, quoted my Rebbe zt"l who said that nothing ever happens in the course of a week that cannot be found within the Torah or Haftora portion of that week; and this week is no exception!

Our Sedra of Matot begins by discussing the laws of oaths, then talks about Israel's war against Midian, Moshe’s anger at Bnei Yisrael’s failure to kill the evil women of that nation, & the distribution of the spoils resulting from the war. I suggest that all of these subjects relate directly to the dramatic events happening this week in our beloved country.

One of the primary attributes of Hashem is that He is an erech apayim; patient, & slow to anger. Rather than punish the wrong-doers right away, He prefers to give His creations time to right their wrongs & do the right thing. But the phrase "slow to anger" indicates that, at some point, anger is totally justified! There is a boiling point (or "tipping point") when justice must be done & punishment must be meted out. At that point, the war must be a total one, where all those who tried to destroy us – the combatants as well as their evil supporters – are legitimate targets.

That is our most sacred national oath & vow - to defend our citizenry from harm.

The State of Israel has, by all accounts, been an erech apayim, patient & forbearing while under fire – perhaps even TOO tolerant. We allowed countless acts of murder & mayhem to be perpetrated against us, giving the adversary numerous opportunities to change their ways & act in a civilized manner. But, alas, they only became worse with time, & increased their deadly belligerence.

And so, finally, we acted and reacted as a proud nation of G-dly people should react. And the scope of our attack against the cruel & barbaric enemy, like that against Midian, must be wide & all-inclusive. As Moshe rebuked his officers, a war of national vengeance cannot be half-hearted.

Let me add one other piece to this paradigm.

The pasuk says that the Jewish soldiers brought the spoils of war to Moshe, Elazar HaKohen & the people. Why did they do this? Rashi explains that they were demonstrating their honesty & integrity, that they took nothing which was not rightfully theirs. This high standard of "t’hor he-neshek," purity of arms, still characterizes our holy chayalim, who make up the purest & most moral fighting force in the world today – perhaps in all of history.

May these amazing virtues compel the Almighty to bring our nation safety, success & lasting security in our land.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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