Parshiyot Matos 5782: B’nei Yisrael’s Belated Total Acceptance of Moshe’s Leadership

Shalom Friends;

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Moshe Burt
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Parshiyot Matos 5782: B’nei Yisrael’s Belated Total Acceptance of Moshe’s Leadership

by Moshe Burt

Parshat Matos relates the events of the legion of Am Yisrael going to fight Hashem’s wars against the kings of Midian and the evil Bila’am, the allocation and distribution of the spoils of victorious battle, preparations for B’nei Yisrael to enter Eretz Yisrael, with the battles that will ensue upon entry, and delineation of each Shevet’s (Tribe’s) portion in the Land as well as designation the cities of refuge. There is also a review of the liberation from Mitzriyim, the crossing of the Yam Suf (the Reed Sea) and B’nei Yisrael’s travels in Bamidbar.

Regarding the coming war against Midian, Torah states:

“Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying, ‘Take vengeance for the B’nei Yisrael against the Midianites; afterward you will be gathered unto your people.'” (Rendered to English in “The Sapirstein Edition, Torah with Rashi Commentary,” Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 31, posukim 1-2)

Torah relates Moshe’s instructions to the nation regarding those chosen for the army and describes the legion going off to war, winning and the extent of the spoils:

“Moshe spoke to the people, saying, ‘Arm men from among yourselves for the army that they may be against Midian to inflict Hashem’s vengeance against Midian. A thousand from a tribe[shevet], a thousand from a tribe, for all of the tribes [Shevatim] of Israel shall you send to the army.’ So there were delivered [Vayimahsru] from the thousands of the B’nei Yisrael, a thousand from each tribe, twelve thousand armed for the army. Moshe sent them — a thousand from each tribe for the legion…” (Rendered to English in “The Sapirstein Edition, Torah with Rashi Commentary,” Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 31, posukim 3-6)

Rashi notes on Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 31, posuk 3:

Moshe spoke, etc. Although Hashem had told him [Moshe] that he would die after this war, Moshe did not delay; he proceeded with alacrity [noun — cheerful readiness, promptness, or willingness] to carry out the Mitzvah. (The Artscroll Stone Chumash citing Rashi, page 905)

Our Parsha also indicates that upon B’nei Yisrael’s hearing of Moshe’s impending passing following the defeat of Midian, the nation belatedly, but unequivocally, expressed acceptance of Moshe as their Divinely Anointed Leader as well as expressing the ideal of a Jew’s love of, dedication to and connection with Eretz Yisrael.

The Artscroll Stone Chumash notes citing Rashi on Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 31, posuk 5 (page 905):

Vayimahsru — Were delivered. This term implies that the warriors of B’nei Yisrael had to be coerced into going to war. This was to their credit, because they knew that Moshe would die when the war was won, and they did not wish to go, so that their triumph would not be at the cost of their leader’s life. For much of the forty years in the Wilderness, they complained to and about him, but now they showed their love for him and had to be delivered against their will.

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, in his Sefer “Growth Through Torah,” (page 368) raises a question on the above Rashi and cites the Shaloh (Shnei Luchos HaBris):

Since Rashi is talking about the praise of Am Yisrael, why did he have to mention that they previously had strong complaints against Moshe. The Shaloh replied that when a person complains against someone else it can come from a positive quality. Because Am Yisrael considered Moshe to be their loving leader who was a father to them, they demanded of him the same support that one would have demanded of a father. From the fact that they wanted Moshe to continue being their leader and did not want to do anything that would hasten the moment of his departure, it showed that their previous complaints came out of the closeness they felt towards him.

But this author wonders at the Shaloh’s response. Segments of the Am acted pretty hatefully toward Moshe in Bamidbar. What about the sin of the ten spies [miraglim]? What about the politics and rebellions of Korach, Dasan and Aviram, the offspring of Reuven as well as Korach’s verbal assaults on Moshe which questioned his Divinely ordained authority, i.e. psak Halacha? What about the Am’s yearning for quail, Zimri’s sin with the Midianite woman and his distorted sense of “acting for the sake of Shemayim” by bringing co-habitation with aliens of the opposite gender into the camp of B’nei Yisrael [not necessarily listed in order] and much more?

And this hatefulness toward Moshe goes back even further with false accusations, rumors and loshen hora regarding the allocation of the Am’s donations toward the Mishkan.

Apparently, this belated love of Moshe and belated, unequivocal acceptance of his leadership arises from the Am’s collective reflection on the broad picture. The seemingly hateful words and actions as listed above could be equated with the parent-child relationship, i.e. “I want ______.” “No, you can do or have that!” Tantrum and “I hate you!” Upon reflection by the child as he grows older, the tantrums, verbal expressions of hate, etc. become love and affection as he matures and reflects on his upbringing and the dedication of the parent to the child’s chinuch and welfare.

This reflection by Am Yisrael regarding Moshe which turns complaints to love, in turn, relates to Am Yisrael’s closeness to Hashem.

Rabbi A. Henach Leibowitz writes on our Parsha in his Sefer, “Majesty of Man” (page 254):

Hashem’s relationship with us, His Chosen People, is much closer than we can imagine. The metaphors [noun — something used, or regarded as being used, to represent something else; emblem; symbol.] we find in the Torah — a father and a son, a chassan and kallah and other such illustrations — don’t even begin to reveal the love that Hashem has for us. They serve mainly to help us grasp some small dimension of the powerful bond of love that Hashem feels for the Jews.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them, that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Homesh be rebuilt, all at total government expense; due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he is now in his second year at home in Eretz Yisrael. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her memory continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of seven years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.