The Unconditional Love of Moshe Rabbeinu

“Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying: Harass the Midianites and smite them”

(Bamidbar 25:16-17)

Hashem commanded Moshe to wage war against the Midianites, for they caused Bnei Yisrael to sin with idolatry and immorality. Moshe Rabbeinu attempted to recruit the people to fulfill Hashem’s word (ibid. 31:3-4), but Bnei Yisrael were loath to respond. They tried to dodge the draft and had to be literally forced into battle by Moshe (Tanchuma, Matot 3).

Considering this incident in light of the following will arouse our admiration for Moshe, our ever-loyal shepherd. Hashem told Moshe (ibid. 31:2) that after this war with Midian, before the nation was to enter the Land, he would breathe his last, not meriting to enter the Promised Land. Armed with this knowledge, Moshe could have easily delayed his death by procrastinating in recruiting soldiers. I remember when the king of Morocco was fatally ill. He spent fortunes to get the best doctors in the world so that he could live longer but was unsuccessful. L’havdil, Moshe was well-aware of the fact that the war with Midian was the last ordeal the nation would undergo before entering Eretz Yisrael. By delaying it, he would prolong his own life.

However, Moshe knew that every day in the Wilderness posed trials for the nation, which were likely to bring them down from their high spiritual level. He feared they would fall so low as to lose their merit to inherit the Land. The benefit of the nation stood at the forefront of Moshe’s mind. He ignored all personal interests and dedicated himself totally for the sake of the nation. His objective was that they maintain their elevated level and merit inheriting the Land, which has special Divine supervision that protects the Jewish spirit and keeps it alive. With his noble act, Moshe bequeathed to all generations the meaning of the phrase unconditional love. It means neglecting one’s personal agenda and placing the good of the other first and foremost in one’s order of priorities. This is the only way to foster true love.

The Beit Hamikdash was destroyed on account of baseless hatred (Yoma 9b). It is difficult to understand this concept. Unconditional love is comprehensible. One loves his friend, so he gives to him, with no thought of physical recompense. But what does one gain from baseless hatred?

If one desists from unconditional love, he is likely to descend to the level of baseless hatred. If a person is not constantly seeking to love his fellow man and do kindness with him, the moment it seems that his friend is acting unjustly toward him, he will not judge him favorably. The road to baseless hatred will be very short.

The way to attain unconditional love is hidden in the words of Bilaam Harasha, as he blessed our nation (Bamidbar 24:5), “How goodly are your tents, Yaakov, your dwelling places, Israel.” As he observed their tents facing away from each other, he perceived the secret of our nation, guided by the tenets of tzeniut (see Bava Batra 60a). A person is naturally jealous of his friend’s acquisitions. When he sees what transpires in his fellow man’s home, he becomes envious, as “the grass is greener on the other side.” This feeling can swell into baseless hatred. By ensuring that their entranceways faced away from each other, Bnei Yisrael reduced the chance for this abominable middah to enter their homes.

The Midrash (Sifri, Beha’alotcha 11) tells us that Eisav naturally hates Yaakov. What is the source of this enmity? Yaakov never did wrong to Eisav. Yaakov represents the pillar of Torah, personifying its maxim of pleasantness and peace (Mishlei 3:17). Eisav’s attitude toward Yaakov is the epitome of baseless hatred: irrational, and defying all logic. Since Eisav chose the approach of hatred, Hashem hates him, measure for measure, as the pasuk (Malachi 1:2-3) states, “I loved Yaakov, but I hated Eisav.” The word “hate” is very intense. It is not used in regard to any sinners. This is because Hashem never gives up on anyone, always anticipating that person’s repentance. But Eisav lives with a deeply-ingrained animosity toward Am Yisrael, the Torah, and anything that hints to kedushah. Hashem has proclaimed that He despises Eisav in order to teach how hateful is the middah of baseless hatred to Hashem, Whose signature is peace.

We learn unconditional, boundless love from our leader and redeemer, who sacrificed his own personal desires for the sake of the nation. Moshe craved more years of life, yet did not tarry in recruiting people to fight the Midianites so that they could enter the Land sooner. Moshe also knew that were he to enter Eretz Yisrael, he would immediately build the Beit Hamikdash. His prayers would have the power to keep the Beit Hamikdash standing forever. What would happen when the Jews would eventually slip into sin? If Hashem would not have had the option of casting His wrath upon the sticks and stones of our Temple, He would have cast it upon Bnei Yisrael themselves, wiping them out completely (see Eichah Rabbah 4:14). Moshe loved his people too much to allow that to happen. He preferred to rush to war with Midian, thereby hastening his own death at the borders of the Land. All of this was due to his tremendous, uncompromising devotion to his people, the sheep of his flock.

In Summary

Moshe had to force Bnei Yisrael into war with the Midianites, who had caused them to sin. Hashem told Moshe that immediately after this war, he would die. Moshe did not procrastinate, claiming that the people were reluctant to fight. He did as Hashem commanded, without taking his personal interests into account.

Moshe was intent on the nation entering Eretz Yisrael as soon as possible. He knew that the longer they remained in the Wilderness, the greater the spiritual danger. He ignored his personal desires and rushed them into war, so that they could enter the Land at the earliest possible opportunity.

Moshe teaches us the true meaning of unconditional love, the direct opposite of baseless hatred. What is the source of baseless hatred? It is the result of a lack of unconditional love.

Bilaam praised our nation with the words, “How goodly are your tents, Yaakov.” He observed how their tents faced away from each other. This averts the negative trait of jealousy and baseless hatred.

Moshe knew that if he were to enter Eretz Yisrael, he would build the Beit Hamikdash, and it would have the power to remain standing forever. When Hashem would be angered by His nation, He would have no recourse but to annihilate them. Therefore, Moshe rushed the people into war so that they could enter the Land without him. When Hashem would subsequently be angered by their deeds, He would cast His anger upon the Temple, and His nation would live.


Hevrat Pinto • 32, rue du Plateau 75019 Paris - FRANCE • Tél. : +331 42 08 25 40 • Fax : +331 42 06 00 33 • © 2015 • Webmaster : Hanania Soussan