Parshas Matos – The War Against Midian

By: Shalom Olensky


This week in the Torah:

G-d Almighty commands Moses to “avenge the vengeance of the Children of Israel from the Midianites,” and concludes, “After that, you will pass on.” Moses speaks to the Jews, saying, “Prepare yourselves, people from among you, for war against Midian – to bring G-d’s vengeance upon Midian.” (Numbers, 31:1-3.)

Three questions:

A) The verse implies that Moses’ passing was delayed so that he specifically could be the leader to wage this war. Why?

B) From the distinctive change in wording from the first verse (“vengeance of the Children of Israel”) to the second (“G-d’s vengeance”), it seems that this was a matter effecting the Name of G-d Himself. Why?

C) “Prepare yourselves” implies a command to all Jews. Since, however, G-d specifies “people from among you,” i.e. selected soldiers, then why first use a term that implies a reference to all Jews?


The physical enemy Midian has a spiritual origin. This spiritual origin is hinted to by its name, which is similar to Madon, meaning fighting – purely fighting for no reason at all. This is also known as “baseless hatred” – hatred in a case where his counterpart did him no wrong and he himself, too, does not wish the other person evil, Heaven forbid. Nevertheless, he cannot tolerate the person’s existence.

The cause:

Self-aggrandizement. His sense of self is so strong that it cannot tolerate the existence of anyone outside of himself – which infringes upon his projected existence.

The cure:

Acquiring a sense of humility and realization that every person has something to contribute to the other. Realizing that we all are really one whole structure, one unit – one family, all children of one father, our Father in Heaven.

Hence, the answers:

Specifically Moses (humility) and the Name of G-d (unity), (as explained in Kabbalah and Chassidic thought) are the catalysts and focus of the aforementioned cure. This unity is reflected in that all Jews (“prepare yourselves”) are included in the one and same Divine command (to defeat the direct opposite of this unity).

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