Friday, July 13, 2007

Parshas Matos / Masei 5767

נְקם, נִקְמַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, מֵאֵת, הַמִּדְיָנִים; אַחַר, תֵּאָסֵף אֶל-עַמֶּיךָ.

"Take revenge for Bnei Yisroel against the Midianites, afterward, you shall be gathered to your people" (Sefer Bamidbar, 31:2)

Chazal tell us that the phrase, "gathered to your people" refers to the death of Moshe. Thus, Hashem commands Moshe to fight Midian and is instructed that after this war he will die. Many Meforshim/commentators wonder why, of all things, Moshe's death was talui/dependent and/or related to the battle against Midian. Why, only following this war, will it be the proper time for Moshe's death?

R' Yaakov Yitzchak Ruderman, founder of Ner Israel, answered with that which the Vilna Gaon says regarding a Gemara in Yoma. The Gemara there (69b) basically says that when the Yetzer Hara no longer yearns for Avodah Zarah, prophecy will cease within the Jewish people. Obviously, this statement is astonishing. You would think the Jewish people would be rewarded when their Yetzer Haras were free of the longing for idol warship. If that's the case, why does it seem that we are punished for this by taking away prophecy from us? The Vilna Goan answers that as long as this longing for non-Jewish idol warship is in the world, we need a combating force to produce a state of equilibrium (in this case, Nevuah/prophecy). However, at a time when the negative force goes away there is no need for the combating positive force.

R' Yaakov Yitzchak says the same applies in our Parsha as well. As long as the impurity that stemmed from Billam (which includes Midian) remains in the world there is the need for the combating force, which, in this case, was Moshe Rabbeinu. However, when the Midianites were smitten, we no longer needed our opposing force that was Moshe Rabbeinu, and this is why the death of Moshe was specifically dependent on the battle with Midian.

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