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July 1, 2013 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Mattot-Matei

In this week’s portion, the Jews win the war with the Midianites (see last week’s discussion) and Moses commands that all the Midianites other than virgin girls be exterminated- perhaps his most (seemingly) reprehensible action.  What’s going on?

Milgrom has a couple of explanations.  First, he notes that the Torah does not say that this order was ever carried out- which may mean that it wasn’t.

Second, he suggests that the nonvirgins were the women who enticed the Jews into idolatry.  On the other hand, it seems hard to believe that every single married Midianite woman would be involved in this sort of thing.  

Perhaps a better way to look at this is as part of Moses’s pattern of erratic behavior near the end of his life.  First he gets disciplined by God for the incident with the rock (even if it is unclear why- whether he used improper phraseology as I suggested a couple of weeks ago, struck the rock when he should have just spoken, etc).  Then he sits around weeping while Jews have sex with Midianites and commit idolatry (in last week’s portion).  And now this.  Maybe the Torah is trying to subtly tell us that Moses is getting more impulsive and undisciplined, and thus is just not really the leader that Israel needs any more. 

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