Friday, July 13, 2007

Abarbanel on the Parsha: Maatos

In this week's parsha we read about (Numbers 31:1-13) the war with the Midianites over the fact that they sent their women to seduce the children of Israel and to get them to worship Baal Peor. The famous question about this episode is why did God not also command Moshe to fight against Moab for their role in the Baal Peor incident and for hiring Bilaam.
Abarbanel makes the argument that contrary to the plain meaning of the text, Moab was not involved with the Baal Peor incident. Baalak, the king of Moab, having seen that his efforts to have Bilaam curse the children of Israel had failed, went home in peace and decided not to engage in any further action against the Jewish people. Bilaam though decided to continue the campaign on his own and got the Midianites to go after the children of Israel. In order to protect themselves though, the Midianites pretended that they were Moabites.
For me the idea that Baalak abandoned his campaign against the children of Israel is interesting as it is an example of how we do not always have to battle our enemies to the death. Our enemies are not always Satanic beings determined to fight us to the end but are rational human beings willing to make peace if it is in their interest to do so. Then again though their are some enemies who hate us beyond reason and who will continue to fight us to either we are dead or they are.

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