By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
This sidrah has five parshiyos.
1. Moshe Rabbeinu’s Introduction. The pesukim give us the location and timeframe of Moshe’s introduction and that the entire nation was present. Moshe gives a review beginning with Hashem saying that Klal Yisrael was at Har Sinai too long and they should move onward. Moshe explains that he cannot lead the nation alone. He suggested that Klal Yisrael appoint leaders of tribes. Klal Yisrael said it was a good idea. Moshe continued: I chose leaders. I instructed the judges as to how to judge. We finally came to Kadesh Barne’a. You approached me to send spies. I agreed to the men. They brought back good samples of the land’s fruits but also reports that the inhabitants were large and strong. You rebelled. I told you not to be afraid and that Hashem is with us. When Hashem heard your reaction, He responded that no one alive will enter the land. You changed your mind, but I told you not to go and that it was too late. You stayed in Kadesh Barne’a for a long time and then spent much time around Har Se’ir.
It is unclear who chose the leaders. In pParashas Yisro it seems to say that Moshe Rabbeinu chose them; here, Rashi explains that Moshe told them to choose since they grew up with the candidates, while he doesn’t know them. The Sifsei Chachomim explains that they nominated them, and Moshe Rabbeinu approved of them using the guidance of the Urim v’Tumim. We see from here the need to empower people in making decisions. However, one must be careful when it is still possible to err. Parents will at times think that their children should not be making the decisions, while the children think that they certainly can. We might consider following what Moshe Rabbeinu did in such cases and empower them to make choices, but reserve the final approval.
2. Eisav. Moshe relates how he told Klal Yisrael not to provoke the descendants of Eisav and that they should purchase food and water from them with money. They can do so because Hashem blessed Klal Yisrael.
This section begs understanding. Why was it necessary to relate this entire episode? The Ibn Ezra explains that the Bnei Yisrael did not buy the food or the water. It teaches us that, out of brotherhood, they should buy from Eisav for his benefit—even though they do not really need it. If this is true for Eisav, certainly we should do so for our own brethren. We should go out of the way to provide business to our brethren—even when we do not actually need it.
3. Moav. Moshe explains how he instructed Klal Yisrael not to attack or provoke Moav and that the Imim (also known as Refa’im) lived there beforehand. They then crossed Nachal Zared after 38 years in the desert.
Why was it necessary to tell us that the Imim lived there previously? The Ramban explains that the Bnei Yisrael were to have taken over all lands that had belonged to the Refa’im. However, Hashem had miraculously given this land to the descendants of Lot on account of his watching out for Avraham Avinu’s life (in Mitzrayim by not informing on him). Since Hashem had given it to them miraculously, it is improper to take it from them. We see from this Ramban the tremendous reward for the ever-so-slight mitzvah of not revealing Avraham’s secret—that Sara was actually his wife. We also see that we should respect and observe the miracles that Hashem has done for the other nations of the world.
4. Ammon. Moshe relates that Hashem told him not to attack Ammon. Moshe then explains how Hashem had allowed Ammon to drive out the previous residents of the land and the same with two other nations. The Chori used to reside in the country until the Bnei Eisav defeated them. Also, the Avim used to reside in their country, but the Kaftorim captured it from them. He explains how he sent messages to Sichon requesting permission to pass, but Sichon’s heart was hardened and Klal Yisrael got the land.
Why the extra history lessons here? They seem very out of place. The Netziv explains that the Avim were great warriors, while the Kaftorim were a nation of dwarfs. All this shows us that defeat and victory have nothing to do with abilities and strengths. Rather, all is controlled by Hashem’s Master Plan, and He has a purpose and plan for everything. This lesson is what the pesukim are teaching us.
5. Reviewing the last episodes. Moshe Rabbeinu reviews battling Sichon. He also reviews the battle with Og and that Hashem told him not to fear Og and that we will do to him just as we did to Sichon. Moshe then reviews the battle with the two kings of Emor. He then explains how the land was given to the Bnei Gad and Bnei Reuvein. He then reviews his instructions to Klal Yisrael and to Yehoshua.
Why was Moshe afraid of Og? Rashi explains that he wasn’t. He was concerned that the zechus Og had in assisting Avraham may have been a mitzvah that would create a zechus for Og in battle. This is strange because Og assisted Avraham in telling him that his nephew Lot was taken captive. Og did so because he wanted Avraham killed so that he could take his wife Sara after Avraham Avinu’s demise. What kind of zechus would such a lowly mitzvah possibly have? We see from here the incredible potency of the mitzvah of chesed. Even if done with rotten intentions, it has remarkable zechusim. How much more so when done with proper intentions. We should learn from here never to avoid doing a chesed for others. You never know where and when it can assist you. ϖ
This week’s parashah sheet was sponsored for a refuah sheleimah for Esther Zlata bas Chaya Sarah.
The series was established in memory of the three murdered yeshiva students Gilad Michael ben Ophir, Yaakov Naftali ben Avraham, and Eyal ben Uriel, Hy’d.
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