The women of the country of Midyan deliberately exploited themselves in a lewd and suggestive manner and caused the Jews to sin which brought about a plague that cost the lives of tens of thousands of Jews. As a result, G-d commanded Moshe to wage war against Midyan to avenge the death of the Jews.

Moshe gathered a thousand troops from each tribe, bringing the total to twelve thousand troops. The Jews defeated the large army of Midyan without any Jewish casualties!

The Torah describes in great detail the large amount of spoils of war that the Jews took. From this one can imagine how mighty and powerful the Midyanites were. Yet, since G-d was on their side, the Jews with a relatively small army were miraculously able to be victorious.

Incidentally, Moshe did not personally conduct this war. Since he had found refuge in Midyan when he was forced to flee Egypt, he felt it would be somewhat ungrateful towards the Midyanites if he would be personally involved in the war. Moshe made sure that G-d’s will was carried out by appointing Pinchos to lead the war.

Even though G-d told Moshe that immediately after the war he would die, it did not deter him from acting immediately on G-d’s command. In fact, the troops were reluctant to fight since they knew that after the war their beloved leader would part from them.

By the way…It is not as if Midyan was so good to Moshe while he was there. The Medrash relates that they imprisoned him for ten years under false accusations. However, Moshe was able to recognize the good that Midyan provided for him and was not swayed by the trouble they caused him.

Rashi wonders, why didn’t G-d command them to take revenge against the nation of Moav? After all, Moav had hired the non-Jewish prophet Billaam to curse the Jewish people; weren’t they even guiltier then the Midyanites?

Rashi explains that the Jewish conquest of the land of Israel did not threaten the Midyanites. It was only because of their deep hatred towards the Jews that they involved themselves and butted in on something that did not affect them, therefore, G-d exacted punishment against them. The Moavites, on the other hand, were petrified of the Jews, fearing they would overpower them. The actions they took were somewhat justified; they did not stem only out of a hatred towards the Jews. G-d was sensitive to this and did not exact punishment from the Moavites.

Additionally, revenge was not taken against Moav because of two great women who would eventually descend from Moav and Amon and convert to Judaism, Ruth – the great grandmother of King David, and Na’amah – the wife of King Shlomo. Imagine, in the merit of two righteous converts, the entire nations of Amon and Moav were spared!

The Talmud tells us that the country of Moav merited having such a righteous descendant as Ruth because her great-grandfather Balak the King of Moav offered forty-two sacrifices to G-d.

Mind you, the forty-two sacrifices that Balak offered to G-d were with the intention of appeasing G-d to allow the non-Jewish prophet Bilaam to curse the Jews. How then could their merit produce the righteous convert Ruth?

The Talmud explains something fascinating. No matter what other intentions a person has when performing a Mitzvah or doing service to G-d, G-d recognizes the mitzvah and receives it. We have the following dictum: “From that which a person serves G-d even when it is devoid of the right intentions, its impact eventually develops into serving Him with the correct intent.”

Interestingly, in the Book of Ruth it describes how a Jewish man by the name of Machlon married Ruth who was a granddaughter of the Moavite King Aglon.

There is quite a discussion among our sources if Ruth sincerely converted to Judaism or not. The litmus test of her sincerity was when her husband Machlon died and Ruth’s mother in law Naomi was heading back to Israel in the poorest of shape. She tried to dissuade Ruth from coming with her, telling her to go back to her royal roots.

Ruth insisted on traveling to Israel and it was her determination to continue to latch on to her mother in law’s heritage that proved her sincerity in joining the Jewish Nation.

Although Ruth started out somewhat insincerely, essentially she turned into one of the most sincere and genuine representation and image that we have of commitment, kindness and righteousness in our history!