02 Jul Table Talk II:Matot-Massei

Denial: “Take revenge from the Midianites,” Rashi comments, “and not the Moabites, because they were scared of the Jews, but the Midianites got involved in a fight that wasn’t theirs.” Why do we assume that the Midianites did not feel threatened by the Children of Israel, especially after Sichon and Og were defeated? When we examine Balak, the King of Moab’s, story we see that the verse adds that “Balak saw,” before it states that he was frightened. Everyone else was in denial. Most people refuse to acknowledge threats. Balak SAW. His fear was real. Midian denied the threat of Israel’s armies and attacked Israel from pure hatred. Where can we find similar elements of denial in the events that led up to the destruction of Jerusalem?

Another Form of Denial

“And they traveled from Ramses on the first month, on the fifteenth of the first month, the day after slaughtering the Paschal Offering, the Children of Israel went out in a victorious mode, before the eyes of all of Egypt. Egypt was burying those smote by God, all the first born, and He executed judgments against their gods.” The Siftei Chachamim explains that the reason Israel was able to leave in such a blatant manner was that the Egyptians were preoccupied with burying their dead. However, Rashi in Ha’azinu explains that Israel went out in such a manner to show that the Egyptians could not stop them, even had the former masters so desired. Perhaps the Egyptians made themselves busy with burying their dead in order to claim that they did not prevent their slaves from leaving because they were so busy. The Egyptians refused to acknowledge God’s power. They needed to deny the reality of their situation in order to maintain their image. Discuss the difference between this form of denial and the one mentioned above. How do they manifest in our lives and our times?

God’s Loss
There is an interesting Halacha in Massei: A convicted murderer may not write a check and get out of his punishment. He can’t even write a check even if he killed unintentionally. Does this imply that if not for the Torah’s prohibition, we would have thought that a person can buy his way out of a death sentence? What about a lesser sin? What if the killer offers the check to the family of his victim in order to save them from the loss of their bread-winner? This would not apply to other sins such as violating Shabbat. The reason we do not allow the killer to save the victim’s family in lieu of a death sentence is that there is another victim of the crime: God. This is why the Pesikta teaches that we should read the Ten Statements horizontally: “I am God, your Lord…” “Do not murder!” God is also a victim of the murder, and He cannot be paid. How does this reflect on God allowing so many to die in the destruction of Jerusalem?

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