Mattot - For the Honor of Hashem

"Take revenge for the children of Israel against the Midianites; afterwards you will be gathered to your people."
נְקֹם נִקְמַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מֵאֵת הַמִּדְיָנִים אַחַר תֵּאָסֵף אֶל עַמֶּיךָ
Bamidbar 31:2
The injunction to take revenge against the Midianites starts with this mitzvah that Hashem communicates to Moshe. However, when Moshe turns to the people of Israel, he changes the language of this mitzvah.
So Moses spoke to the people, saying, "Arm from among you men for the army, that they can be against Midian, and carry out the revenge of the L-rd against Midian.
 וַיְדַבֵּר משֶׁה אֶל הָעָם לֵאמֹר הֵחָלְצוּ מֵאִתְּכֶם אֲנָשִׁים לַצָּבָא וְיִהְיוּ עַל מִדְיָן לָתֵת נִקְמַת ה'  בְּמִדְיָן
Bamidbar 31:3
The Kli Yakar asks why does Moshe change the description of the mitzvah that Hashem communicates to him?

Midianite Crimes
The Kli Yakar explains that the crimes carried out by the Midianites were twofold: against Hashem and against the People of Israel.

The Midianites confronted Hashem by bringing idol worship (with Baal Peor) and harlotry into the the camp of the Jewish people.

The Midianites dealt with the Jewish people by sending women to seduce Jewish men, because of whom 24,000 Jews perished.

However, the Kli Yakar explains, Hashem related to Moshe that He extended forgiveness to the Midianites for abrogating his honor.  Yet, the mitzvah to Moshe was given to still take revenge for what was done to Jewish people, which resulted in a loss of 24,000 lives. This demanded the revenge.

Moshe Reconsiders 
In considering giving over this mitzvah to the Jewish people, Moshe took several factors into account. He wanted the mitzvah to be accepted and implemented by the Jewish people as quickly as possible. Yet he was concerned that some issues may cloud their decision making.

Since Hashem had forgiven the Midianites, then saying that the mitzvah was revenge solely for what the Midianites did to the Jewish people, may not come off so smoothly. The Jewish people could say, 'Just like Hashem, we'll grant forgiveness to the Midianites as well.'

Furthermore, the injunction that Hashem delivers to Moshe includes the detail that "afterwards you will be gathered to your people." This means that after the war against Midian, Moshe will die.

The Jewish people could see this as conditional, where success in the war with Midian will bring about the death of Moshe. This could cloud their resolve, leaving them uncertain about their determination to take revenge against Midian, and thus not fulfill the mitzvah from Hashem.

Mitzvah Redefined
So Moshe takes the mitzvah that Hashem hands down and re-packages it to make it more acceptable for the Jewish people, and clearer for them to undertake this mitzvah immediately. He seems to change the emphasis of the mitzvah saying, "carry out the revenge of the L-rd against Midian." He makes the focus of the mitzvah not about revenging the crimes carried out against the Jewish people, but about how the Midianites swiped at the honor of Hashem. Moshe doesn't mention anything about his death. So that the Jewish people will face no hesitation in carrying out this mitzvah.

The Value of the Enemy
The Kli Yakar further explores this verse explaining the unique language used. In the initial mitzvah communicated to Moshe, the enemy is described in the plural - the Midianites. This shows the balance of the mitzvah, for just as many Jews perished so also should many (or all) Midianites should revenge be brought upon.

However, in Moshe's approach to the Mitzvah, the enemy is described in the singular as Midian. This comes to represent that where the focus is to avenge the honor of Hashem, there is no corresponding power to Hashem. In other words, Hashem is everything and the enemy is not many, but nothing.

Willful Deception?
So how do we account for Moshe's actions? Even with the calculations and considerations he made, was he intentionally being deceptive to the Jewish people in order to accomplish this mitzvah. Did the end justify the means?

The Rabbeinu Behaye explains that whenever the Jewish people are attacked, ultimately it is an attack on Hashem. This qualifies Moshe's actions, where he was fulfilling the mitzvah that Hashem gave over to take revenge for the attack on the Jewish people by framing it as avenging the honor of Hashem. Since essentially both of these were one in the same.

Modern Connection
We see today many attacks, verbal and military, on the Jewish people. While these enemies claim that they are motivated by political differences, as we see, actually they are attacking Hashem through attacks on the Jewish people.

So as we make our way through the final days of Bain Hameitzarim (the 3 weeks), and we reflect to the long and tragic history of attacks on the Jewish people, we should hope that this chapter is coming to a close and we will see the Moshiach soon in our days.

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