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Parashas Matos

Take the vengeance of the Children of Israel from the Children of Israel from the Midianites (Numbers 31:2)

    In this verse, Hashem refers to the vengeance of the Children of Israel. In the next verse, however, when Moshe passes Hashem’s instructions on to the Jews, he speaks of HASHEM’s vengeance against Midian. Indeed, since Moshe uses a different expression, the Torah does not say that Moshe was quoting Hashem’s word; it says only that Moshe spoke to the people, saying, which implies that his words were his own rephrasing of the Divine command. Why did Moshe paraphrase Hashem’s words and what right did he have to do so?

    Rashi says that whenever someone stands up against Israel, it is as if he stood against Hashem. Thus Moshe was merely restating Hashem’s words in a way that would be more compelling to the people. If Moshe had ordered the Jews to extract vengeance for transgressions against them, they might have been willing to forgive any wrongs done them and forgo taking vengeance. However, they had no right to forgive offenses against Hashem. Therefore, once Moshe said that HASHEM’s honor was involved, the people had no choice but to follow his orders.

    Excerpt from Kol Dodi on the Torah, by Rabbi David Feinstein