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Parashat Matot

At the beginning of Matot, Moshe is commanded to gather together soldiers to form an army in order to wage war with Midian. Midian had sent Bilaam to curse Bnei Yisroel. Upon their failure to secure a victory through a curse, Midian had sent their women to seduce the Jewish men in hopes of angering Hashem to where He would destroy Bnei Yisroel. Moshe commands the people, "Arm men from among yourselves for the legion that they may be against Midian to inflict Hashem’s vengeance against Midian." Upon reading this verse, I was troubled by a number of things. First, how can we inflict Hashem’s vengeance, after all wouldn’t Hashem be the best One to punish others? Second, even if we could inflict Hashem’s vengeance, why should we be the proper choice to do so? Rashi comments on this verse that when an enemy stands up against the Jews it is as if they are standing up against Hashem. Through an analysis of Rashi’s comment we can explain Moshe’s call to inflict Hashem’s vengeance.

Bnei Yisroel are Hashem’s chosen people; Hashem chose to give the Torah to us. Our actions represent His "Will." By attacking the Jewish people, our enemies are really attacking who we represent, Hashem. When Midian attacked the Jewish people, they were challenging the notion of the Torah as God’s will and Bnei Yisroel as those chosen to carry it out. God’s vengeance is not due to God’s need for revenge; it is God teaching about the correct way of life, the way of life commanded in the Torah. It was only fitting that the vehicle for this lesson be something that would show loud and clear the severity of Midian’s mistake. By appropriately planning that Bnei Yisroel be the ones to attack and defeat Midian, the message was clear that Bnei Yisroel were the chosen people, they represented the Torah and God’s "Will."

As members of the great nation of Israel we must ask ourselves what it means to represent Hashem’s "Will" to the world. Whether we choose to or not, we are Hashem’s representatives in this world, and that obligates us in a certain amount of responsibility. We must act as His representatives, and that means following the Torah’s directives. When we do not act in accordance with the Torah, when we follow our own instincts and not the ways of wisdom, we lose our status as God’s representatives to the world. As such, we also lose the Divine protection He provides us. This week let’s commit ourselves to a greater observance of the Torah. Let us commit to learning Torah so that we can know how to be better representatives of Hashem. Let us show the world what it means to be God’s people.