Parshas Matos
Numbers 30:2 - 32:42

How Could You Do This? ©

By Dr. Akiva G. Belk

This study of the weekly parsha is dedicated in the loving memory of Mr. Michael and Mrs. Channah Sakash, may they rest in peace.

We read "Moshe was angry with the commanders of the army" (Numbers 31:13). Observe why he was angry. In the beginning of this chapter Moshe spoke to the nation saying: "Arm men from among yourselves for the army and they will be against Midian, to bring revenge of Hashem against Midian. One thousand from each tribe, one thousand from each tribe for all the tribes of Yisroel, shall you send into the army."

In addition to this we read "Moshe sent, one thousand from each tribe to the army, them and Pinchas, son of Elozor the Kohen to the army, with the sacred vessels and the trumpets in his hand."

This is the only instruction that we read given by Moshe. From this very brief instruction the army of Yisroel understood what they were to do. They killed every adult male of Midian. They killed the Midianite kings. They killed the evil Prophet Bil'am son of Beor. They set all the residential cities and palaces on fire. The meaning of this brief instruction given by Moshe Rabbeinu to B'nai Yisroel was intuitively understood. Yet, the entire instruction was not followed. That's why Moshe was angry.

Who in all of Israel could forget the action of Pinchas when he stopped the plague that killed 24,000 by killing Zimri and Cosbi? We would be foolish to suggest that after these incidents the halacha of adultery and the halacha of worshiping idols had been so quickly erased from every mind in Klal Yisroel. There was no doubt regarding the Torah teaching surrounding adultery and idolatry...

At the conclusion of their apparently successful campaign the army of Yisroel "brought to Moshe and to Elozor the Kohen and to the entire community of B'nei Yisroel, the captives, and all that had been seized, and the booty, to the camp, at the plains of Moav, which was by the Yarden near Yereicho."

Moshe responded to their actions in anger, "Did you let every female live? They were the very ones who on Bila'm's advice involved {cohabitated} with B'nei Yisroel to cause them to commit betrayal against Hashem regarding the matter of Pe'or so that the plague broke out within the community of Hashem."

We learn:
First, from Moshe's expression it is clear that the women were recognized as the ones who cohabitated with B'nei Yisroel causing them to worship Pe'or. Rashi states, "This informs us that they recognized them- 'this is the one through which so-and-so had his downfall.'"

Second, there appears to be human failure on the part of the leaders of the army of Yisroel. They understood their mission. Their mission included destroying all the women of sexual age and every male. Until this final stage was accomplished the mission was a failure.

Third, the army of Yisroel wrongly brought the very problem right to the doorstep of B'nei Yisroel. The Torah goes into great detail as to the exact location where the captives were brought.

Fourth, the army of Yisroel delivered the problem or, if you will, reintroduced the problem back into the society of B'nei Yisroel. The Torah says that they, the army of Yisroel, delivered them to ... the entire community of B'nei Yisroel.

Why would they do such a thing? Moshe was angry! This was such a common sense issue. It was so clear! It was the heart of their mission to eliminate these women from any future potential problems...

It exposes our human failings. Not the failings of one or two but the failings of the leadership, the commanders of the army of Yisroel, "at the officers of the thousands and at the officers of the hundreds..."

Fifth, one must notice that Moshe was angry at the officers of the hundreds {1,20} and at the officers of the thousands {12}. He was angry at 132 officers. One could argue that the officers were just following the orders of the officers of the thousands. That would appear correct but it isn't!

The fact is that the entire community of B'nei Yisroel received the charge given to Moshe from Hashem. This included the officers of the hundreds as well as the officers of the thousands as well as the foot soldiers as well as all of Yisroel.

One could argue that the officers of hundreds were junior to the officers of thousands therefore they could not approach them regarding this matter. WRONG! WRONG!! WRONG!!! If they were not accountable for their actions why else would they be included in the angry rebuke by Moshe? It was Moshe's opinion that they could have prevented this from happening! They could have done something! It is also VERY CLEAR THAT HE EXPECTED THEM TO DO SOMETHING!

Sixth, even though we have no written record in the Torah of the point by point or the step by step action that the army of Yisroel was to take in behalf of Hashem IT WAS UNDENIABLY UNDERSTOOD. This was why Moshe was angry. The message was that clear. How can we be so sure that the message was so clear?

The word Vah Yeek Tzof, which is used to describe Moshe's anger is not frequently used. Notice the Gematria Mispar Godal of Vah Yeek Tzof is 1,006 which is the same Gematria for Toh Rohs, meaning The Law of Hashem, the Torah! Moshe's anger was proclaimed in the Torah but also by the Torah. In other words, IF YOU KNOW THAT THE LAWS OF HASHEM FORBID AN ACT OR ACTION THEN YOU ARE ACCOUNTABLE EVEN IF YOU'RE ONLY A LEADER OR AN OFFICER OF HUNDREDS! Why? Because you are given responsibility, the responsibility of hundreds. It was like Moshe was saying, "You fools! You study the Torah! You understand the Torah! You do not need me to explain it to you! You understand! You know that allowing these women who cohabitated with B'nei Yisroel to live is wrong! You know that bringing them to our doorstep is wrong! Eliminate them!" That is the powerful message in these Gematrias!

From right to left
Vah Yeek Tzof
1006 = Pey = 800 + Tzaddi = 90 + Kuf = 100 + Yud =10 + Vav = 6
Toh Rohs
1006 = Sav = 400 + Reish = 200 + Vav = 6 + Sav = 400

Therefore, because you as a leader know that an act or an action is wrong, you who study the Torah are responsible to do something about it according to Moshe our teacher. You are not permitted to shirk your responsibility!

Better a leader of hundreds approach a leader of thousands than to have a commoner, a foot soldier, approach and rebuke a leader of thousands. The choice is yours...

Wishing you the best,

Dr. Akiva G. Belk

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