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Rashi Teaser – Mattos

Bamidbar 31:2

2"Take revenge for the children of Israel against the Midianites; afterwards you will be gathered to your people." ב. נְקֹם נִקְמַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מֵאֵת הַמִּדְיָנִים אַחַר תֵּאָסֵף אֶל עַמֶּיךָ:

מאת המדינים: ולא מאת המואבים, שהמואבים נכנסו לדבר מחמת יראה שהיו יראים מהם, שיהיו שוללים אותם, שלא נאמר אלא (דברים ב, ט) אל תתגר בם מלחמה. אבל מדינים נתעברו על ריב לא להם. דבר אחר מפני שתי פרידות טובות שיש לי להוציא מהם, רות המואביה ונעמה העמונית:


Q1: According to Rashi, why did HaShem command Bnei Yisrael to take vengeance on Midyan, but not with Moab?

Q2: Why does Rashi bring 2 explanations? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?


Q3: What is troubling Rashi here, such that he compares Moab with Midyan? Why would I think it strange that Bnei Yisrael could take vengeance against Midyan but not Moav?


A1: a) Moav and Midyan together hired Bilam to curse Bnei Yisrael. While Moav’s intentions were down to a fear of Bnei Yisrael taking their spoils, Midyan got involved in a matter that they had nothing to do with because of their hatred for Bnei Yisrael.


b) Ruth (and consequently King David) was destined to come from Moav.


A2: The first answer is difficult, because despite Moav’s fear of Bnei Yisrael, they nevertheless instigated an attempt to lead Bnei Yisrael astray, which ought not to merit future protection from Bnei Yisrael. Sifsei Chachamim adds that Midyan too were afraid of Bnei Yisrael.


A difficulty with the second answer is that HaShem could have commanded Bnei Yisrael not to kill only the family chain from which Ruth would descend. The fact that there was an injunction on taking vengeance on the whole nation causes Rashi to prefer his first explanation, which focuses on the nation as a whole (Sifsei Chachamim).

A3: One might have thought that since the joint effort to hire Bilam was at Moab’s initiative, Moab would bear even more responsibility than Midyan.

Good Shabbos,

Daniel Caller


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