The War Against Binyamin - -

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Resource Type: Shiur in: English
Age: 13-18
Group Size: 1-100
Estimated Time: 30 minutes

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Resource Goal

Goal: The chanichim should see the irony in the Am Israel going to war against Shevet Binyamin, and how in this civil war, they accomplish everything that they were not able to accomplish when attempting to conquer the land in the 1st perek. This ends the Sefer on an extremely depressing note, stressing again that Am Israel need strong moral leaders in order that anarchy and events like this civil war, do not happen again.

Resource Contents

Written by- Sarah Gordon

Many of the ideas from these shiruim are adapted from the book "Shofet HaShoftim" by Yisroel Rozenson, published by Machon Herzog.

Machal Shiur #18: Perek 20-21

Goal: The chanichim should see the irony in the Am Israel going to war against Shevet Binyamin, and how in this civil war, they accomplish everything that they were not able to accomplish when attempting to conquer the land in the 1st perek. This ends the Sefer on an extremely depressing note, stressing again that Am Israel need strong moral leaders in order that anarchy and events like this civil war, do not happen again.

Perek 20:

1- Bnei Israel are answering the call of the Ish Levi after getting body part message of the pilegesh. They gather together kish echad finally there is unity!! (But well see it only ends up getting used for civil war).

2- Who comes? raglei shoref cherev sword bearing soldiers. Finally there is unity and a mass army combining together. When was this supposed to happen? In Perek 1, with going out and kicking out the foreign nations and conquering the land!! But only now is it happening, at the end of the book, in order to fight their brothers. But at least the nation is responding to the atrocity.

4- Ish Levi tells the gathered army what happens, but ask the chanichim: Is his story what really happened? No, he changes key details. He says that they tried to kill him, and leaves out part that he threw his Pilegesh out there, just says they raped her. He changes the story to hide any guilt he would have!! Shows again the negative side of this Ish Levi.

8- Kish echad once again there is a stress on the unity being shown, the decision is that each shevet will send a delegation of soldiers and will contribute provisions, and there will be one combined army made of all of the shevatim, to attack Givah bc of the horrible thing that they did.

***Its important to note here that Shmuel is writing this story with key literary techniques. It sounds very much like a satire. Hes writing it clearly using terms and lashon from the 1st perek, about what Bnei Israel should have done when they entered Israel, to unify as one army and conquer the land. Instead, each tribe fought for themselves and no one was successful in kicking out the 7 nations. This is a direct parallel to Perek 1 think of Perek 1 and Perek 20 as brackets, to emphasize the irony and failure of Am Israel here, since they had no leaders!

11- Bnei Israel are together on this kish echad, chaverim. This is the response to the cutting up of the Pilegesh. Could be this is symbolic of how all of Am Israel is one body and if one part hurts, then the rest must feel pain. The Pilegesh was hurt and Am Israel must punish the perpetrators.

(Sounds like an ir nidachat see Devarim 13: 16-18, a Jewish idolatrous city that must be destroyed, but here the city sinned with bein adam lechaveiro and not just bein adam lmakom).

12- The combined army goes to Binyamin and demands they hand over the perpetrators of this crime, since it happened in Binyamins territory.

Abarbanel: They didnt want to attack Binyamin, they thought Binyamin would join them in attacking the people who did this anshei Givah. But Binyamin refused. Here we see that the Am is acting like the Shofet!

13- Binyamin refuses to listen to their brothers, achim stresses brothers to show the terrible event that is about to happen civil war. Binyamin and the rest of Am Israel (or the combined army) prepare for war against each other.

Ask the chanichim: Why does Binyamin refuse to hand over the people who did this crime? It could be a result of the disunity of the tribes, and Binyamin doesnt want to be told what to do. Or as we suggested last shiur, if you dont kick out nations that keep immoral practices, you start to think that these practices are ok. It could be that Binyamin was fine with what the people in Yevus did killing and raping a guest. The backwards irony of the generation.

18: The combined army goes to Bet-El to ask the Urim Vetumim before they go out to war. They dont ask IF they should go out to war, but WHO should go out first. They are confident in their decision to go to war against another shevet!! The answer is Yehudah should go out.

Irony: When was the last time this happened??? This is a parallel to the beginning of Sefer Shoftim, where the nation asks the Urim Vetumim who should go out to war first against the remaining non Jewish nations in its nachala, and the response is Yehudah. What is happening now is exactly what SHOULD have happened at the beginning of shoftim everyone combing together keish echad in achdut, and making a national army and going out to war and destroying the foreign nations in the land. Instead only some nations came and none were successful in conquering their nachala. This is the irony, because only at the end when going to war against another shevet are Bnei Israel doing what they are supposed to, even though it is for the horrible act of killing another shevet, instead of a foreign nation!! More backwards actions and leadership, as seen throughout this sefer.

Also see the word vayeal used throughout this story of the war against Binyamin. Vayeal is usually used in regard to conquering land and hitnachalut, settling the land. Now its ironically being used with regard to going up to war against a fellow shevet!

We also see the symbolism of Binyamin. Binyamin is traditionally the shevet that symbolizes achdut. It is with Binyamin, that Yosef tests the brothers for their achdut (will they plead for his life, or write him off like what they did to Yosef years before) and the brothers are reunited. This is why it is in Binyamins nachala that the Beit Hamikdash will stand and where the Shechinah will rest. Yet now it is over Binyamin that civil war is breaking out.

Am Israel is losing sight of the real goal to punish the people who did this act in Givah, and instead are now engaging in war with Binyamin over a different issue entirely.

19- After Hashem tells them that Yehuda should go first, they fight against Binyamin and lose terribly, 22 000 of their men are killed. They return and cry before Hashem and ask if they should still fight. Hashem says yes. They go and again lose 18 000 men to Binyamin. Now they go back, cry and fast and bring korbanot and ask now before the Aron where Pinchas the Cohen is in charge. Hashem says to go.

The crying is a parallel to Shoftim Perek 2, where the nation cries (at Bochim) because they did not successfully conquer the land. So too here, in this bizarre conquering or war against their own tribe, there is crying.

Why did Hashem set them up if they were going to lose and get killed?

Ramban: Because they asked who should go up and didnt ask if at all they should go to war. If they had, G-d would have said to work out a solution and compromise with Binyamin rather then resort to civil war.

Radak: G-d set them up because they allowed Pesel Micha and a temple of avodah zara to exist without being outraged against this. G-d said; You are outraged over what happened to a human, but not over My honor?

Or Peshat answer could be because doing wrong thing!! Wanted to kill their brothers, so Hashem allows them to get killed.

28-44: This 3rd time they go out to war again, but set up a plan with ambushes and traps. They are not just going to rely on G-d and a miracle this time, but they will take initiative and lure Binyamin out to fight them. Meanwhile, they surround Givah and start to attack, and set the city on fire. Once the people (the fake attack) getting attacked by Binyaminites see smoke, they turn around and start attacking Binyamin, surrounding them.

34- The people of Binyamin had no idea during the battle that they were walking into a trap!!

***Here again, we see that Bnei Israel are using Yehoshua type military methods, which are supposed to be used for conquering the land (Think Ai and Yericho), but now are using them against each other!

35- The pasuk says Hashem is fighting for them. The other tribes had been punished enough and now Hashem will help them. Also because this time they took initiative and had a battle plan. When you take initiative, especially in battle for Israel, Hashem will help with the rest.

44-48: Bnei Israels army chase down any stragglers and anyone who escaped from Binyamin and hunt them down and kill them. 600 Binyaminites hide out at Selah Rimon (Rock of Rimon) for 4 months and survive. The rest of the entire Shevet is wiped out and all their cities, women and children and animals are burned cherem.

***The idea of cherem and everything, all spoils being destroyed is similar once again to the original battles in Yehoshua that successfully wiped out sections of non Jews living in Eretz Israel, like by the Ai and Yericho.

The other irony is that Am Israel couldnt wipe out nations when commanded to for hitnachalut, but now nearly wiped out a whole shevet of their own!

Perek 21:

Now we have another issue the shevet of Binyamin is almost entirely wiped out, only 600 men left!

Also, following the battle, to further punish Binyamin, all of Am Israel had taken an oath that they would not let their daughters marry into Binyamin. So how is the shevet to marry and repopulate itself?

3- Bnei Israel have remorse how could it be that we almost wiped out a shevet? Shows the tragedy of Sefer Shoftim.

There are now 2 issues:

  1. No more women to marry men of Binyamin

  2. Other tribes took oath so cant give them their daughters.

8- So instead they think did any city not help us attack Binyamin? Because they had taken an oath that everyone in the Jewish people must come forward and join to attack Givah, in the last Perek.

They realize that the town of Yavesh Gilad had not come and helped in the battle, so they attack Yavesh Gilad and kill all men and women who had been married and leave 400 unmarried girls to marry the men from Binyamin.

**This is terrible!! They fix the horrible consequence of civil war and massacre of Binyamin by massacring more people!! Everything is backwards!!

13- They go to the rock of Rimon where the 600 Binyamin survivors were hanging out for the past 4 months, establish peace with them and give them the women as wives.

There are some more parallels here, since at the beginning of the Pilegesh bGivah story, the Levi reunites with his wife after 4 months of separation, and goes on a trip to get her back . And here too after 4 months, the Binyamin people (or the rest of Am Israel on their behalf) reunites with Binyain and go to try and find wives for them.

But 200 men still need wives even after all the Yavesh Gilad shidduchim. So they go to the yearly holiday in Shiloh where the daughters of Shiloh would go out and dance (dances called macholot like when Yiftachs daughter dances out to him after his military victory), and the men would watch and pick one as a wife. And if the people on Shiloh get angry because they cursed anyone who gives their daughters to Binyamin men, Bnei Israel say to the Anshei Binyamin to tell them to have mercy on you because you did not get a wife from the ladies of Yavesh Gilad. And if they say you cant have their daughter then its their guilt that you wont get married! They go, get wives, and its all good.

24-Everyone goes home to their own tribe the achdut is over.

25-Once again tells us why this happened- because there was no king in Israel!!

The last line in Sefer Shoftim what it all comes down to is:

Holiday in Shiloh?

What holiday in Shiloh? Once a year, the girls would wear white and go out and dance, and boys would come and grab whoever they wanted to marry. It was one of the happiest days of the year. Today we celebrate it as Tu BAv (15th).

Radak: It was on Pesach or Sukkos- bc was time of joy.

Taanit 26b: It was on Yom Kippur when the girls would go out wearing white.

Its also interesting that the men find wives in Shiloh. Because this is the site where the Mishkan is; the predecessor of the Temple the site of religious renewal and rebuilding, here the men are rebuilding their families and shevet through getting married. Perhaps finally a Tikkun for Pesel Micha, and a hint to the future mikdash or a national religious center.

They go to the place which should be a national religious center the Mishkan in Shiloh, but after the shidduchim dance off, they all go home and miss the point. Until Shmuel and David will unify the nation in the next book.

The sefer ends on horribly depressing note. We see from this the lack of achdut.

Ask the chanichim: Why is achdut so important and what was so horrible about the civil war, more then other wars? Does it make a difference that it was a JEWISH civil war and not any other nation fighting itself?

Why do we need achdut as a nation to survive?

Recap: Ironically, the nation only unites and manages to wipe out another nation when they are fighting another tribe their own brothers. This perek and sefer ends with the story of civil war another terrible consequence of lack of leadership and achdut seen throughout Sefer Shoftim.

Resource Comments

Machal Shiur #18: Perek 20-21

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