Who among us has not experienced at least once in our life a sense of lack of harmony between what one believes in and how one acts?
When two opposing approaches that cannot coexist arise in us, cognitive dissonance is created and then we make a choice in one area and erase the other conflicting approach from our consciousness, sometimes even acting extremely radically against it, so as not to feel dissonance.
When dissonance is created, the feeling is so unbearable and impossible that it causes us to change our position and adopt a new position, even if extreme, only to feel inner harmony again.
Like the soldier who is sent on a mission that he does not believe in and re-formulates his position so that the mission will seem necessary and just to him.
In order to reduce the feeling of disharmony (dissonance) the person feels the need to prove to himself the truths of the new faith he holds and often the way to do so is by taking an extreme position or actively persuading others.
In the portion of this week Matot (Bamidbar 30), when the Children of Israel took revenge on the Midian nation, they killed all the men with the sword, captured the women and returned to the camp with the spoils and plunder. Moses is very angry with them and commands:
Kill every male including the babies too! and every woman who men have known.
And only the girls who have not yet “known male intercourse” he allows to keep alive.
And I ask myself:
Is his extreme response only related to the instruction he received from God (revenge)?
Or is it perhaps related to the sense of dissonance he feels?
What goes through Moses’ head and how did he feel, perhaps, when he received an instruction from God, that his last task before his death would be to lead the people to a war of vengeance on the nation of Midian?
And God said to Moses, take revenge for the Children of Israel, from the Midianites, before you die.
Did a thought pass through his mind: Wait, my wife is a member of this people, Tziporah is a daughter of Midian!
Did he think for a moment to protest before God and say to him: Because of the falsehood of Kozbi Bat Tzur and her companions, you command me to destroy all the Midianites? And you want me to lead this action?
I am Moses, who received refuge in the house of Jethro, Cohen of Midian in the flight from Pharaoh, I who married his daughter Tzipora and together we had sons, I who won the full support of Jethro and his help in running the justice system at the foot of Mount Sinai?
They are my family! And they are Midianites.
And this will be my goodbye to them before my impending death?
And I think of Moses the man, who had previously experienced the loss of a patriarchal house, when it became clear to him that Pharaoh’s house was not his family, on the contrary, Pharaoh was the oppressor of his family and people.
The dissonance that may have been created then, he resolved by killing the Egyptian and escaping.
And later on he was required to confront Pharaoh his “father” (on a mission assigned to him) and see him drowning before his eyes.
And here it happens to him again!
He has the mission to avenge the Midianites (for the daughters of Midian seduced the children of Israel to worship their God, as did Kozbi Bat Tzur).
Did he feel dissonance?
I wonder to myself, what is the inner reality of Moses that has not been transformed, and what is the energy that continues to exist within him and that is reflected in his external reality in a recurring confrontation? In war and in killing his father figure’s people just before he parted from the world.
May we be blessed to know how to recognize the internal conflicts in our lives.
And transform them before they are embodied in the reality of our lives.
That we will succeed in operating in harmony with our inner truth.
And when it comes time to say goodbye (and not necessarily to life) we will be privileged to do so in peace and love and not in revenge and in wars.