After Jewish men illegally consorted with Midianite women, we find a strange offer from the sinners. Instead of the usual animal or flour/incense based sacrifices, they suggest that atonement for their sins should be granted by bringing the jewellery and concealed body ornaments proudly adorning the Midianite women and used to cajole them to a sordid bed of iniquity. This is a most strange and irregular “sacrifice”. From whence did they assume that such a notion would be acceptable? The sons of Aaron died for bringing a “strange fire” as a sacrifice! There was no Torah precedent for this style of offering to atone for the injunction against iniquitous cohabitation.
Precious Jewellery represents the enticement embodied by the physical being. Man and Woman are attracted to beauty. This, in of itself, is not necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, without appreciation of such, there might be no procreation. The danger is born when physicality alone conceals and constricts the spiritual essence and striving of the holy Jewish soul. The soul is rendered wounded by the attack of physicality (or excessive materialism).
Rav Kook explains that the sinners had recognised that they allowed bodily desires influenced by external considerations to overtake the essence of their spiritual and religious imperative. The shell of the egg, if you will, conceals the yolk and albumen. In such situations, our role is to break the shell, and find the essential truth which nourishes the soul. We have witnessed the shell of a deal with Iran. The devil is in the detail concealed therein. May we merit to see true peace in our country, Israel, and may all Jews be safe from the scourge of the misleading and tempestuous storm of deception and violence enveloping our world—especially now—during the nine days of mourning for the destruction of our beloved Temple.