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Shabbat Parashat Vaetchanan | 5769

Parashat Hashavuah: The Golan Heights Like Jerusalem and Shechem

Harav Moshe Ehrenreich

Moshe requested of Hashem again “at this time” (Devarim 3: 23-25) to allow him into Eretz Yisrael despite the decree to the contrary. Rashi says that he did so because he had conquered the lands of Sichon and Og and given them to the two and a half tribes. Why did Moshe think this would change things? We will explain with the help of two passages from the Ramban.

Moshe asked permission of those two kingdoms to pass through their lands and did not plan to conquer them despite the fact that they lived in lands that ultimately were to become part of Eretz Yisrael. Moshe wanted the first conquests of the Land to be west of the Jordan, in the Land flowing with milk and honey. Had the two tribes not demanded to live in the conquered areas east of the Jordan, says the Ramban, Moshe would have left these areas desolate until the west bank was settled.

Another idea of the Ramban is as follows. The rules of kashering utensils were given after the battle with Midyan, not the previous battles against the Emorites. The reason is that since the latter’s land was part of the greater Land of Israel, the spoils taken from them in a battle of conquest were not subject to the laws of kashrut. Only the battle against Midyan, which was one of vengeance, carried with it those restrictions.

Now we understand that Moshe thought that since he had conquered parts of the Land of Israel and remained there, the decree was apparently over. One could claim that the fact that Moshe’s request was rejected showed that these areas were not part of the Land. However, the Parashat Derachim proves that other than regarding the laws of bikurim, where the “Land flowing with milk and honey” is mentioned, the other laws of the Land apply to the east bank as well.

So how was Moshe wrong? Before his death, Moshe ascended Har Nevo to see the Land he would not enter. The list of regions he saw includes the Gilad (ibid. 34: 1, 2). Since this was one of the places that Bnei Yisrael already conquered and occupied, why was this necessary? One can suggest that since BneiYisrael were designed to take control of the west side first, the lands of Sichon and Og did not as of yet receive the sanctity of Eretz Yisrael. What Moshe was seeing, spiritually, not physically, was the Gilad region of the future, which later would be imbued with that sanctity. We can thus understand what Moshe had thought and why he was overly optimistic.

What follows is that once Bnei Yisrael entered Eretz Yisrael with Yehoshua, regions such as the Golan Heights became part and parcel of the Land of Israel. For that reason, Rav Yisraeli (Harabbanut V’hamedina pg. 413) said that regarding general sanctity of the Land, the Golan Heights is no different than Jerusalem or Shechem and that any plan to uproot settlements there, Heaven forbid, is one to impose exile from the Land of its proper inhabitants.


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