matos & maasai

The Parsha this week is Parshas Matos and Parshas Maasai. In Parshas Matos the Torah tells us of one of the final instructions Hashem gave to Moses. “Take vengeance for the Jewish people from the Midianites, then you will pass on to your people”. Moses was told to avenge the terrible calamity that the Midianites had brought about to the Jewish people when 24,000 Jews ended dyeing. However, Hashem made it clear what would follow after this episode: Moses would die. The Medrash observes, “If Moses had wanted to live for a thousand years he could have. Hashem had clearly told him, if you don’t take vengeance from the Midianites you won’t die. Certainly Moses could have waited twenty or thirty years. However, Moses said we have no right to push of an opportunity to do a mitzvah. Immediately he sent soldiers,…”

In truth, we do find that the knowledge of the fact that Moses would die after this battle did affect the behavior of the Jewish soldiers. The Torah tells us that the soldiers who went to war were “given from the thousands of Jews…” Why did they have to be given? Weren’t they willing to go and to fight? The Sages explain that when these soldiers heard that Moses would die when this battle was over, they refused to go to serve. They had to be forced to go.

One obvious lesson that Moses taught us all at this point was our thoughts when we have an opportunity to do a mitzvah. Clearly Moses was not thinking of himself when he arranged the war with the Midianites. For his own benefit, the mitzvah should have been put off for a little bit. However, Moses wasn’t doing the Mitzvah for his own benefit. Moses goal was simply to do the will of Hashem. Even if he personally stood to lose from the Mitzvah, Moses made sure it was done immediately with no delay.

When we do a mitzvah, we have to pause for a second and ask ourselves – why? Why are we doing this? Is it for our own satisfaction, or is it to serve Hashem? Is there some personal benefit we are looking for in doing the mitzvah, or is our motivation really just to serve our Creator? When Moses sent the troops immediately, even though he knew that the results were not in his own best interest, he taught us a lesson in approaching mitzvohs – to always do them right away with only the goal of serving Hashem.