Parashas Mattos-Masei

Parashas Mattos recounts the war the Jewish People waged against Midian for luring them into licentious conduct, which led to a major chillul Hashem. The Midrash, in Bamidbar Rabbah 22:5, notes that Moshe yearned to behold this act of vengeance before his death, and Hashem granted this wish. The Midrash links the episode to the following verse (Tehillim 58:11): “The righteous one rejoiced when he beheld vengeance.”
The Maggid brings out the message of this Midrash with a shrewd parable. A certain rich man had a son who was addicted to wine, and would get drunk day after day. Naturally, the father was very upset. Then a sage came to town, and offered to cure the lad of his addiction; he promised that, when he was through, the lad would despise wine like roaches and rats. The father handed his son over to the sage, and some time later the sage returned, saying: “You can take your boy back now – I have drilled into him a total disgust of alcohol.”
Despite this proclamation of success, the father took care not to bring any alcohol into the house. And he saw that, indeed, his son did not ask for wine as he always had before. Eventually, the father decided to put his son to a more challenging test. He told him: “Go, my son, to the liquor store, and buy me a bottle of wine.” When the lad entered the store, the very sight of wine and liquor made him livid, and he started smashing bottles left and right. The storeowner restrained the boy, and then went to the father to complain: “Your son has caused me enormous damage by destroying my merchandise!” Upon hearing this, the father broke out in a grin. He said: “Don’t worry, I’ll pay for all the damage. Not only that, but I’m happy to hear what my son did, for now I really know how much he hates alcohol.”
The parallel is as follows. Moshe wanted to know how the Jewish People felt about the despicable conduct the Midianites had lured them into. He therefore yearned to witness the battle of vengeance that the Jewish People would wage against them. He was concerned that the people still harbored some leanings toward licentiousness, which would lead them to fight half-heartedly. But when he saw the Jews mercilessly beating the living pulp out the Midianites, Moshe knew for sure that the Jews were filled with disgust with what the Midianites had led them to do. And, upon beholding this zealous vengeance, he rejoiced.     
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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