Parashas Mattos

Parashas Mattos recounts the Jewish People’s war of vengeance against Midian for leading them to sin. In last week’s parashah, the Torah relates Hashem’s command to wage this war (Bamidbar 25:17-18): “Harass the Midianites, and smite them, for they harassed you through their connivery with which they beguiled you in the matter of Peor ….” The Maggid asks why Hashem made a point of specifying that the war was on account of the “matter of Peor” – what difference did it make whether the Midianites led the Jews to worship Peor or some other idol?
The Maggid answers this question with a parable. Two bums latched onto to a young lad, an only son. Both of them constantly encouraged the lad to drink liquor, ultimately leading him to become an alcoholic. But each of them had a different modus operandi. One of them would ask the lad to buy some liquor so that the two of them could drink together. The other would buy the lad liquor with his own money and give it to him to drink. When the father found out what was happening, he naturally was angry with both bums, but he was much angrier with the second one. The first bum’s actions could be chalked up to his own desire for liquor, but the second one clearly was acting with evil intent, deliberately trying to turn his son into a degenerate.
The parallel is as follows. If the Midianites had induced the Jews to worship some other idol, their action could be attributed to a desire to bring the idol honor. But the Peor cult was different. The Peor cult was aimed at despising all forms of authority; the Peor rite involved making a disgusting gesture of contempt toward the Peor. The Midianites were degenerates, and they wanted to turn the Jews into degenerates also. Accordingly, Hashem made a point of specifying that the Jews were to wage war against Midian on account of the “matter of Peor,” in order to emphasize the evil intent behind the Midianites’ actions.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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