מטות–מסעי

This week’s double parsha concludes the book of Bamidbar (Numbers), beginning with the vengeful war against the nation of Midyan.  After the battle proper ends, a curious passage follows (31:13-20), in which Moshe gets angry at his soldiers for not killing all the women as well as the combatants, seeing as it was the women who seduced the Israelite men to worship the idol of Pe’or.  There is, in my mind at least, an admission of the sinfulness of such an act, as in verse 19 Moshe tells the soldiers that “You, encamp outside the camp for seven days – anyone who kills a person or anyone who touches the spoils shall purify themselves on the third and seventh days, you and your captives” (translation mine).  So while it is a direct command from Hashem’s closest prophet, those that engage in killing the women must remove themselves from the community for a week – no such instructions were given before the war started as a general rule.

Whatever the cause

Killing innocents in war

Is to be marked

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