Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes of bnei Yisroel, saying: This is the thing that Hashem has commanded.
Moshe Rabbeinu instructed bnei Yisroel to attach themselves to the middos (attributes) of HaKodosh Boruch Hu. The saying of Chazal (Zohar II 122b): “A little person is big, and a big person is little,” teaches us that one must always be unassuming in order to succeed in avodas Hashem. Furthermore, just as HaKodosh Boruch Hu created yesh from ayin (an ex nihilo creation something from nothing) so too those who follow His ways should cling to the middah of HaKodosh Boruch Hu that is ayin. They should constantly look carefully at their ayin–self-nullification and in that way draw yesh, an abundance to the world. The Gemora (Shabbos 156a) teaches us, “Ein mazal leYisroel” (Yisroel are not governed by mazal), which can also be explained as meaning that ein–humility–is the source of mazal, of abundance for Yisroel.
“Moshe spoke to the heads of the mattos of bnei Yisroel”–although they are the heads of Yisroel they remain humble and unassuming like mattos (staffs). They are mateh themselves, meaning that they incline and belittle themselves. This madreigah of being humble is what Moshe Rabbeinu taught bnei Yisroel.
Arm men from among yourselves for the legion that they may be against Midian to inflict Hashem‘s vengeance against Midian.
The Jews waged war against Midian because the Midianites made a concerted effort to entice them to sin with Midianite women. The Midianites wanted to diminish the holiness of the Jewish nation. The sole motive for which the Jews waged this war was to avenge Hashem‘s honor which the Midianites had desecrated by their immoral conduct. This point is indicated by the word “Heichaltzu” which often means “to arm” but can also mean “remove”. The verse can be interpretated to mean that the soldiers were to “remove” themselves from any ulterior motive which they may have had in attacking the Midianites. They proceeded into battle only to restore Hashem‘s glory by demonstrating that they would not tolerate those who led people to sin.
Elazer the Kohen said to the men of the legion who came to the battle.
Why does the Pasuk state: “who came to the battle” since they already finished fighting and it was after the battle? Wouldn‘t “who came from the battle” be more appropriate?
The Torah is telling us that the “men of the legion,” who were true tzaddikim and humble people, were convinced that they haven‘t yet even begun the real war, the war against the yetzer hora. Now, that they defeated the foe, they must begin their main avodas Hashem and now they “came to the battle.”
[Maran Rebbe Yissochor Dov zy‘a of Belz]