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Parashat Matto — Numbers 30:2-32:42

At the turn of the 20th century, the fifth Rabbi of Chabad, Rabbi Sholom DovBer Schneersohn—the Rashab—developed a teaching based on a few small and seemingly insignificant verses from this week’s Torah portion. He eventually published this teaching in a booklet entitled, Heichaltzu. The focus of the entire teaching was on love toward one’s fellow and was eventually republished in English under the title, Ahavat Israel: A Path to True Unity. Oddly enough, the premise of the entire work is founded on the following passage:

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Avenge the people of Israel on the Midianites. Afterward you shall be gathered to your people.” So Moses spoke to the people, saying, “Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Midian to execute the LORD's vengeance on Midian. You shall send a thousand from each of the tribes of Israel to the war.” (Numbers 31:1–4)

Yes, you read it correctly. At first glance, it would seem this passage has nothing to do with love, but rather hate. The word, heichaltzu, the name of his book, is taken from verse three, and essentially means, “take up arms.” How, then, does it teach us about love, since it’s difficult to see anything about love in this passage? Let’s briefly try to understand Rashab’s conclusions.

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