Friday, July 04, 2008

A Parsha Thought - Hukkat

Tomorrow we will read my Bar Mitzva Parsha - Hukkat. From Korah's rebellion in last week's Parsha we skip some 38 years, and are now in the last year of wandering in the desert. We travel around Edom since they did not allow us to pass through their land and we were forbidden to wage war against them. Next we came to Sihon and Og, two powerful Amorite kings charged with barring our way from Canaan. Both were soundly defeated, their land conquered and made part of Eretz Yisrael. We know from last week's haftara that the inhabitants of Canaan, on the opposite (west) side of the Jordan, had heard of kri'at Yam Suf and of the destruction of Sihon and Og and had completely lost their confidence and will to fight. That the miraculous splitting of the Sea of Reeds would frighten our enemies is understandable, but that happened 40 years ago. The victories over Sihon and Og were fresher, and seem to have made the panic in Canaan even stronger - for good reason. The splitting of the sea was a miracle, and perhaps the murmurings, rebellions and debauchery with the women of Moab made us unworthy of such miracles in the future. But the victories over Sihon and Og were, to all appearances, not miracles. No stretching forth of the rod, no raising hands to heaven, only a conventional war. Tremendous hiddush for the Canaanites - those Jew boys can fight! And that must have scared the pants off them! Ken tihyeh lanu; may the same come to pass for us.

The haftara that I read is one of the longest, and contains an important lesson for our own time. Yiftah, the judge of Israel, was faced with a warlike neighbor Ammon. He sent diplomats to Ammon, and they came back with a demand that Yiftah "return" some territory on the East Bank (yes, the East Bank) of the Jordan that Israel had taken some 300 years previously. Return the territory, and you can have peace. Yiftah replies that the land in question was not taken from Ammon (as with Edom, the Torah forbids us to start a war with Ammon or Moab) but from Sihon and Og. He goes on to tell the king of Ammon that what his idol Kemosh (actually the idol of the related Moabites) gives him he can keep, and what Hashem gives us we will keep. One can only surmise that Yiftah was using diplomatic language; surely he knew that Ammon's idol gives them nothing, and the same Hashem that gives us what is ours gives the Ammonites what is theirs. In any case, Yiftah lets the king of Ammon know that he will not "return" a square centimeter, and if the king is intent on war, bring it on, b'ezrat Hashem we're ready. Naturally, a war ensued which we won. No more trouble with the Ammonites for a long time. Show weakness to our enemies and they pounce on us, demanding more and more "concessions." Show strength, and with God's help we will overcome.

Hat tip: Rav Meir Kahane hy"d

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6 Comments:

Blogger bernard n. shull said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Tue Jul 08, 10:32:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gut gezugt, Reb Zev. Keep it coming.

Wed Jul 16, 09:57:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Garnel Ironheart said...

What is often forgotten is that, according to the original British mandate, there was supposd to be an East Bank in Israel as well. When do we get compensation for that being taken away?

Sun Jul 20, 01:25:00 PM EDT  
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