by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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OROH V'SIMCHOH - MESHECH CHOCHMOH ON PARSHAS VAYISHLACH - BS"D
The MESHECH CHOCHMOH feels that our verse is a strong indication to the opinion of the Rambam. Our verse tells us that the women of this community were captured and not killed. According to the Rambam this is correct, since the gemara Sanhedrin 57b says that even though it is enough to have but one witness to judge a ben Noach guilty, but a woman's testimony is not accepted. Therefore the women were not guilty of not administering justice, since their testimony would not be accepted. However, according to the Ramban wo posits that their sin was idol worship, why didn't Shimon and Levi also kill the women, as we find in Bmidbar 31:17 and Shoftim 21:11, and as is explained in the Rambam hilchos avodoh zoroh 4:6?
Perhaps the opinion of the Ramban can be answered as follows: The Moshav Z'keinim and Paa'nei'ach Rozo ask the opposite of the MESHECH CHOCHMOH's question. Why were the women and children not left alone? They answer that this was done as a strategy to safeguard the bnei Yaakov. After killing out the city of Sh'chem there was a very real fear of the neighbouring peoples attacking the bnei Yaakov, as was indeed very strongly voiced by Yaakov in verse 30. By capturing the women and children who were relatives of the people of the surrounding area they gained leverage to strike a peace deal with them, as otherwise, if the bnei Yaakov were to be attacked there was a fear in the minds of the attackers that their relatives would be killed. They bring a proof for this by pointing out that otherwise how would Yaakov dare send out Yoseif to Sh'chem (37:13), a place of mortal danger.
Thus the question of the MESHECH CHOCHMOH is answered. Although according to the Ramban the women also deserved to be killed, one is not required to carry this out at the risk of his life if instead he could capture them and strike a peace treaty, as mentioned in the Moshav Z'keinim and Paa'nei'ach Rozo.
A slight indication for the insight of these two commentators might be found in the order of the verse, mentioning the children before the women. If the intention of taking them as spoils of a battle was for their intrinsic value, the women who were of greater value than children, as servants and for procreating a new generation of servants, should be mentioned first, in the order of the greater down to the lesser. If however, the intention was to take them hostage to work out a treaty, then mentioning the children first is logical, as there were probably more children than grown women.
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