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Beit Midrash Series Ein Ayah

Moral Strength in Unity

“Moshe was angry at the officers of the soldiers [who took revenge against the Midianites who caused Bnei Yisrael to sin]” (Bamidbar 31:14). Rav Nachman said in the name of Rabba bar Avuha: [This is the content of what] Moshe was saying to Israel: Perhaps you have returned to your previous sin [i.e., the promiscuity with the Moavite and Midianite women, which would explain why they brought the women with them]. They answered: “Not one person is missing from us” (ibid. 49) [Rashi – We have not lost the Jewish characteristic].”
Various RabbisAv 20 5778
14
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Gemara: "Moshe was angry at the officers of the soldiers [who took revenge against the Midianites who caused Bnei Yisrael to sin]" (Bamidbar 31:14). Rav Nachman said in the name of Rabba bar Avuha: [This is the content of what] Moshe was saying to Israel: Perhaps you have returned to your previous sin [i.e., the promiscuity with the Moavite and Midianite women, which would explain why they brought the women with them]. They answered: "Not one person is missing from us" (ibid. 49) [Rashi – We have not lost the Jewish characteristic]."



Ein Ayah: When one comes to "wage war" against something bad, he naturally already recognizes that the bad thing is at hand and needs to be fought. However, sometimes the internal inclinations are not yet fully refined, so that the battle against the evil matter can actually strengthen the bad inclination to which the person is secretly susceptible. The way to protect oneself is to connect himself to an event in which the community recognized that the evil is indeed evil. The individual’s standing will be fortified by connecting to a strong communal stance. This is particularly effective when the bad and lowly matters come about because one has separated himself as an individual from others.

These sensitivities came to the fore when Bnei Yisrael fought the Midianites after the moral downfall the foreign women brought to them. It was apparent that an element of licentiousness was still connected to them. Moshe was angry at the officers, for it was their responsibility to combine the people as a community, which is more resistant to such inclinations, and protects even the individuals. Indeed Moshe had reason for concern that the people reverted to their previous moral lapse stemming from their bad inclination.

The answer, though, was clear. They declared that they had remained connected to the force of the community, and the joint act of war against those who had caused sin was morally successful. "There was no man who was missing." This was the assurance that no individuals had been negatively affected by that which the war brought to the fore because they remained as one holy unit.



Thought of Sin Even for those Fortified against Actions of Sin

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 6:77)



Gemara: [The gemara continues:] Moshe said: If so, why do you need atonement? They answered: Although we escaped without sin, we did not escape without thoughts of sin. Right away, they said: "We shall bring a sacrifice to Hashem."



Ein Ayah: The community embraces within its midst the individual, whenever there is a direct connection between the individual and the community. The communal elements are more related to the actions that are taken. Actions are included in the life of the community, and individuals are set within this.

Thought, on the other hand, always goes along with one’s internal life, in which the individual is neither set within nor swept along by the community. Therefore, while the strength of the connection between people can protect every single person from actually sinning, even though his heart is not pure, it cannot prevent him from having sinful thoughts. Because these thoughts came about through waging war against evil, they can be fixed, and things connected to it can come to the Heaven as a sacrifice, which connects an emotion of sanctity to the negative matter.

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