~ Rabbi Shefa Gold's Torah Journeys ~
NUMBERS 30:2 - 32:42
THE BLESSING OFMATTOT is well-hidden beneath a dark and terrible story of
vengeance. "The last thing you will do before you die," God whispers to Moses, "is to manifest
the battle that has been raging within you."
When Mohammed talked of Jihad, Holy War, he described the "Lesser Jihad," the battle that
we wage outside of ourselves, and the "Greater Jihad," the battle that we must face within. All
the holy wars that we fight, all our enmity and fierce devotion to the cause of destroying one
another, can be traced back to the true battle raging within us. That inner battle rages on
beneath our awareness, yet its power, projected out on the "other," fuels the injustices of the
world. When those injustices become so dramatically evident and painfully obvious, it is
possible to have a blessed moment of stunned awareness that sends us within, in search of the
source of this madness. It is at this moment that the blood that is on our own hands shocks us
awake. It is when the furious words that come out of our mouths are so clearly contradictory to
our professed values, that we are forced to acknowledge our "Greater Jihad," the war that rages
MOSES RAISES AN ARMY and launches a war of revenge against the Midianites. After killing all the Midianite men, taking the women and infants prisoner, burning the Midianite cities and seizing the Midianite wealth, the army returns. They are greeted by Moses who is furious. "What! You let the women live?!" he demands. And then he commands the army to murder all the mature women and the male infants.
In this terrible moment, that contradicts all the laws of mercy and kindness, that overturns
even the laws of warfare; in this moment of witnessing the awful cruelty unleashed by
unrestrained power, even the most callous among us must begin to wonder, "What is the
source of this hatred? What is fueling this obsession? How can it be stopped?"
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?