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June 25, 2013 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Pinchas

I am on a two-week vacation to the Pacific Northwest now, so I don’t have as many sources to look at.  Nevertheless, I did xerox part of the Milgrom commentary and bring in with me, so I am able to create a small dvar Torah.

This week’s portion begins the story of the war with Midian.  God tells Moses to “Assail the Midianites… because of the affair of Peor and because of the affair of their kinswoman Cozbi, daugher of the Midianite chieftain, who was killed at the time of the plague on account of Peor.”  (Nub. 25:17-18).  (As you may recall, Cozbi was caught with a Jewish man as part of a pagan seduction campaign and both were killed by Pinchas).

Now at this point you may be asking yourself “Why Midian? Wasn’t Moab trying to curse the Jews in last week’s portion? And weren’t Moabite women seducing Jewish men?”

Milgrom tries to explain why some Midianite tribes might have been hostile to the Jews.  He suggests that (a) Moab and Midian were part of one confederation or (b) more interestingly, that when Israel conquered the territory of Sihon (another local king, see Numbers 21) “it severed the king’s highway and thereby threatened the Midianites’ hold on the vital spice trade.”  In other words, this was a war about money from the Midianites’ point of view.

To quote the musical Fiorello: “warm-hearted men with money at stake turn into callous misbegotten misers.”

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