Vol 23.25 - Matot Spanish French Audio Video
|Hebrew Text: Sifrei Rambam Chumash|
(5741) The Midianite war - revenge and not just conquest. The debate of Rambam and Raavad (Hil. Shemittah v'Yoval 13:10) if Levites have a portion of spoils.
Explanation of the view (Sifrei 31:4) that the Levites joined in the Midianite war.
1. In our Parsha, it speaks about two wars between the Yidden and the nations of the world. Regarding the first war, the Midianite war, it tells how the war was actually conducted; and regarding the second war – the future war to conquer Eretz Yisroel – it tells how Bnei Gad and Bnei Reuven took upon themselves to be those, “who are armed for combat before the L-rd, for the battle”.
The difference between the two wars is understood from Scripture itself:
(It was completely the opposite, as Scripture states, ”They set fire to all their residential cities and their castles”).
They only took as spoils the, “Midianite women and their small children . . and all their possessions”.
“We will then arm ourselves quickly (and go) before Bnei Yisroel until we have brought them to their place”.
Moreover, they said,
“We shall not return to our homes until each of Bnei Yisroel has taken possession of his inheritance”.
2. According to this, that the Midianite war was not for the purpose of conquest – taking it so that it would be theirs and settling in the land of Midian - a question that the Raavad asks on Rambam is answered:
Regarding the law that:
“The entire tribe of Levi are commanded against receiving an inheritance in the land of Canaan . . and they were commanded against receiving a share in the spoil when the cities are conquered”
“It appears to me that the above applies only with regard to the land for which a covenant was established with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, their descendants inherited it and it was divided among them. If, however, other lands will be conquered by a king of Israel, the Kohanim and the Levites have the same rights as the entire Jewish people”.
The Raavad questions this:
“Regarding the spoils of Midian, they (the Kohanim and the Levites) did not take a portion with Yisroel except with regard to Terumah, and this was by Divine commandment”.
Thus, we indeed see, from the plunder of Midian, that even regarding a conquest of “other lands”, the Kohanim and the Levites are not “as the entire Jewish people”, and they do not take any (inheritance in the land, and) share in the spoils.
The Kesef Mishneh answers that:
“The Rabbi (Rambam) maintains that on the contrary, from there (Midian) it is a proof. For since we see that in a land, where a covenant was enacted, they did not take spoils, at all, whereas in Midian – they did take spoils, - this reveals that, since there was no covenant enacted in Midian, the law against Kohanim receiving a share in the spoils, does not apply, at all. Moreover, the same can applied to all other lands, where no covenant was enacted. The reason that they did not take an equal share of the spoils with Yisroel, was because of Divine decree (גזירת הכתוב), and it was a temporary directive (הוראת שעה)”.
However, this requires great examination. For what they took, in Midian, was not a share of the spoils. Rather (as Rambam calls it, it was “a tithe of the tax” (תרומת המכס)). (c.f. ibid 32:41).
However, according to the aforementioned, that regarding the Midianite war:
“They (Bnei Yisroel) did not capture their land from them. Rather, in order to exact vengeance on them, they killed them”,
it is understood that this has completely, no relation to the “other lands” of which Rambam states that the Kohanim and the Levites, in those lands, have an equal right in the spoils, like all Yisroel. For Rambam is speaking about such a war whose purpose and manner is that the king conquers that land. Whereas, the Midianite war had another boundary - its purpose was not to conquer the land of Midian, but rather to take revenge on them, as it states. “Take revenge for Bnei Yisroel against the Midianites”.
3. One can however ask on this:
“When a siege is placed around a city to seize it, it should not be surrounded on all four sides, only on three. A place should be left for the inhabitants to flee and for all those who desire, to escape with their lives, as it is written Num. 31:7: 'And they besieged Midian as G-d commanded Moshe. According to tradition, He commanded them to array the siege as described”.
From the plain wording it appears, that according to Rambam’s view, even the Midianite war was in the category of: “When a siege is placed around a city to seize it”. In other words, to conquer the country.
If the intent was solely,
“in order to exact vengeance on them, they killed them”,
then why should “we leave a place for the inhabitants to flee and for all those who desire, to escape with their lives”?
As the Rogatchover Gaon indeed explains - the two views in the Sifrei, regarding a siege, whether it should be surrounded on all four sides, or just on three sides, is a dispute whether this applies in the case of a regular war; or in the case of a war of revenge. For in a regular war, it certainly must be surrounded solely on three sides.
Although, even regarding a war which is for the purpose of revenge “to kill them”, there is a place to say that we should leave the fourth side unguarded (אומבאלאגערט),
(Not in order that the inhabitants of the city should be able to save themselves, but rather)
in order that “they not strengthen themselves to fight us”. For when there is no option, not having any way to flee, the besieged will counterattack, and this can, G-d forbid, cause casualties among Yidden.
(According to this, one could explain, that this is what Rambam means by the two wordings:
However, since Rambam also includes the Midianite war in the Halacha of, “When a siege is placed around a city to seize it, it should not be surrounded etc.”.
And moreover, that the entire law of (“it should not be surrounded etc.”) is learnt from the Midianite war – it appears that even the Midianite war contains (somewhat of) a parallel to the other wars whose purpose is to conquer the country.
According to this, the question of the Raavad returns:
Since the Midianite war was similar to the wars of,
“other lands that will be conquered by a king of Israel” (that Rambam states is so)
why do we find that regarding “the spoils of Midian, they (the Kohanim and Levites) did not take a portion among Israel”?
4. One could say that according to Rambam, the Midianite war contained both scopes – purposes:
It was a war due to the “revenge for Bnei Yisroel”; and together with this it was also a semblance (כעין) of a war of conquest, similar to the wars of the other lands that a king conquers.
Although we do not find in the simple understanding of the verses, that the land of Midian was inherited, nevertheless Rambam learns that since the Torah tells us that:
“Bnei Yisroel took captive the Midianite women and their children. All their livestock, flocks and wealth they took as booty . . They took all the booty, all that had been seized, of man and livestock”,
(and Moshe’s claim was just "Did you let every female live?” and he just commanded: “execute every male among the children”).
Not like the war with Amalek where the command was,
“you shall utterly destroy all that is his, and you shall not have pity on him: and you shall slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass”
Therefore, this proves that it was a war of revenge, but not a war to annihilate (למחות). However, it was albeit a semblance of a war of conquest.
Therefore, regarding the law whether one must surround the city from just three sides or from all four sides, since regarding Midian, there was no command to annihilate all the inhabitants of the land. Therefore, the Halachic ruling in Rambam is that,
“We do not surround it on all four sides, only on three sides”
And from this one learns (with an a fortiori - (ובמכש״כ) also regarding other wars which are completely for the purpose of conquest, “When a siege is placed around a city to seize it”.
On the other hand, since the Midianite war was (also, and) primarily a war of revenge, as it states,
“Now execute every male”, “and every woman with intimate knowledge of a man”.
It was not for the purpose of conquest – that they should receive it as property – as land and articles, spoil.
Therefore, the aspect of spoil here is not similar to the spoil of,
“other lands will be conquered by a king of Israel” where “the Kohanim and the Levites, in those lands, have a share in the spoils, as the entire Jewish people”. Rather it is a “tithe of tax”.
However, one must understand:
Since the main purpose was a war for revenge, they should have not separated (אפשיידן) even the “tithe of tax” (to Elazar the Kohen and to the Levites).
5. One can understand this by prefacing that which we find another unique aspect regarding the Midianite war:
From the verse:
“One thousand from each tribe, one thousand from each tribe, for all of the tribes of Yisroel, you shall send into the army."
R’ Akiva learns:
"To include the tribe of Levi” – that even the Shevet Levi joined in the Midianite war.
The Rogatchover Gaon explains that this is the meaning of the dispute in the Sifrei. Namely, whether “Shevet Levi was also in (the war of) Midian. This is dependent upon whether its status was a war, in which they would not go, as Rambam states. However, if it was for revenge, they would go“.
One must understand:
Rambam states that the reason that Shevet Levi “do not wage war“ is because:
“they were set apart from the ways of the world. (and therefore) They do not wage war like the remainder of the Jewish people”.
Therefore, why, in a war of revenge (like the Midianite war) did Shevet Levi also participate?
6. One could say that the explanation of this is:
Since Shevet Levi:
“were set aside to serve G-d and minister unto Him and to instruct people at large in His just paths and righteous judgments, as it states: "They will teach Your judgments to Jacob and Your Torah to Israel. . . Therefore, they were set apart from the ways of the world. . .Instead, they are G-d's legion” (חיל השם).
It is understood that such a war, which is not for the purpose of conquering the land, like the ways of the world – can also pertain to Shevet Levi. Moreover, a war which is connected with “G-d” (השם) –Shevet Levi - since they are G-d’s legion - must (and specifically) also (join) in the war.
The Midianite war was “to wreak the L-rd’s vengeance on Midian”. The scope and context of the war is, since Midian stands against G-d – against Hashem, therefore, Shevet Levi must (also) (participate) in the Midianite war. This is his aspect as “G-d‘s legion”, to carry out “G-d’s revenge”.
According to this, it is understood why regarding the Midianite war there was the command:
“You shall exact a tax for the L-rd. . and give it to Elazar the Kohen as a gift to the L-rd”.
“from the half of the Bnei Yisroel, take one part out of fifty . . and give it to the Levites".
With this, it is conveyed, that this war, is not a war like all wars (for the purpose of spoil and plunder). Rather it is a war to carry out “G-d’s revenge”.
Therefore, one must also, from the “booty seized, of what was captured of the men and animals” –separate (and elevate it) and give it to Elazar the Kohen and the Levites, since they are “G-d’s legion”.
7. However, one must understand:
The law that, “they do not wage war” is stated in Rambam in continuation to the aforementioned Halacha, that they do not take any share in the land or the spoils, which is not so regarding other lands.
“Why did the Levites not receive a portion in the inheritance of Eretz Yisrael and in the spoils of war like their brethren? Because they were set aside to serve G-d and minister unto Him and to instruct people at large in His just paths and righteous judgments. .Therefore, they were set apart from the ways of the world. They do not wage war like the remainder of the Jewish people, nor do they receive an inheritance, nor do they acquire for themselves through their physical power”.
From the flow of Rambam’s words, it appears that the two laws, “They do not wage war” and “nor do they receive an inheritance” are connected and dependent upon each other.
(As is proven from the conclusion of his words, where Rambam combines them together:
“Therefore they were set apart . .They do not wage war . . nor do they receive an inheritance etc.”)
According to this, it must come out that regarding the wars of conquest of other lands, where,
“the Kohanim and the Levites, in those lands, have the same share in the spoils as the entire Jewish people”,
that the Kohanim and the Levites can (must) also participate in the war. Seemingly, the war in the other lands is not for “G-d’s revenge”, but for conquest. Therefore, what relation do these wars have with Shevet Levi?
One could say the explanation of this, by prefacing an understanding of Rambam’s precise wording and elaboration:
“The above applies only with regard to the land for which a covenant was established with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, their descendants inherited it and it was divided among them”.
For seemingly, what is the ramification of all these details and signs?
Rambam could have just said “in the land of Canaan” like he himself states in the previous Halacha, and we would have indeed known what land, he means.
Even if Rambam wanted to connect the land with the Avot, since “they inherited it (since they are) descendants”, he could have stated: “in the land that was given to Avraham“ (as we find the same wording in another place in Rambam’s Hilchot Terumot (1:2).
What is Rambam innovating with the detail
“for which a covenant was established with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”, and moreover adding with this “and their descendants inherited it and it was divided among them”?
One could say that the reasoning is:
In this wording, it emphasizes the rationale of the difference between, a land for which a covenant was established versus other lands that a king conquers:
8. Eretz Yisroel is a land which, even beforehand (before the war), was separated from other lands, by virtue of “a covenant was established with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”. From then on, it became a Land and entity which is connected and became one thing with the recipients of the land.
This is the aspect of the covenant
(which they passed through/עובר בין הבתרים) the parts of one thing. Both parties pass through one body to unite them.
with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and it comes to Yidden, in actuality, through their descendants “who inherited it and it was divided among them”.
One may not make a new entity in Eretz Yisroel. And the land was apportioned to them. It is not sufficient to merely conquer the (seven) nations of Canaan. The (seven) nations must be apportioned – given to the Yidden as it states,
“You shall clear out the Land and settle in it”,
settling in it.
Therefore, since Shevet Levi, being set apart from the ways of the world, is not pertinent to this.
Which is not so regarding “other lands will be conquered by a king of Israel”.
“they have the same status as Eretz Yisrael which was conquered by Joshua in every regard”.
However, this is not a necessity for Bnei Yisroel. A king “fights with other nations”
(not in order that Yidden should have a land in the world – an inheritance (a field and vineyard) to settle there, but rather)
in order to expand the borders of Israel and to magnify its greatness and reputation”.
(which is the greatness and reputation of G-d)
Therefore, the war, with regard to these lands also pertains to Shevet Levi (as being “G-d’s legion”)
9. The lesson for every person in his spiritual Avodah is:
A Yid whose spirit generously motivates him to be on the level of Shevet Levi. As Rambam rules as Halacha that this is relevant to everyone, as he states:
“Not only the tribe of Levi, but any person . .whose spirit generously motivates him and he understands with his wisdom to set himself aside and stand before G-d to serve Him and minister to Him etc.”,
“he is sanctified as holy of holies. G-d will be His portion and heritage . . like He provides for the Kohanim and the Levites”.
A person could think to himself:
Since he is set apart from the ways of the world . . and stands before G-d to serve Him and minister to Him – what relation, at all, is there between him, and the world around him?
Therefore, one says to him, that on the contrary, since he is like Shevet Levi, he indeed has a relation. Moreover, it is a unique relation - he must participate in the Avodah of “Avenging G-d in Midian”, to vanquish and nullify those that oppose G-d.
In Avodat HaAdam this specifically means, to completely nullify and negate the division and baseless hatred (שנאת חנם) which can, G-d forbid, be among Yidden, may G-d save us. This is what caused the Churban of the Temple and Galut - and this last Galut.
As “G-d’s legion” – one must imbue, even until a matter of settling (התיישבות), Ahavat Yisroel, among Yidden – all Yidden. This is connected and this binds each Yid with the One G-d.
One could think that it is sufficient if one conducts himself among Yidden and is dedicated to Yiddishkeit – Torah and Mitzvot.
However, the lesson is that Kohanim and Levites must also participate in the Avodah to make from “all the other lands” a portion, a part of the boundary of Yisroel (גבול ישראל). Even such things of the world, which of themselves, are not necessary for Yiddishkeit, nevertheless, one must expand the boundary of Yisroel – to utilize them in Avodat HaShem, and to magnify its greatness and reputation”
Through all this, one hastens the nullification of Galut,
(through the nullification of the sole cause of Galut – “Because of our sins we were exiled from our Land”)
and we will be immediately redeemed, with the true and complete Geulah.
Then all Yidden will receive the complete Eretz Yisroel, according to its borders, and also to expand the borders of Yisroel, as it states:
“G-d will expand your borders”,
including the lands of the Keini, Kenizi and Kadmoni, and even more -
In the Future, Eretz Yisroel will spread throughout the entire world, with the coming of our righteous Moshiach, speedily, mamosh.
M’Sichas Shabbat Parshat Matot-Maasei 5723
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