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Shabbat Parashat Chukat 5779

Parashat Hashavua: Why to Be Afraid or Not Be Afraid of Og part I

Harav Yosef Carmel

Moshe was threatened by Og, the King of Bashan, and his army and was successful in conquering. Before this happened, though, Hashem reassured Moshe: “Do not fear for I have given him over to your hand …” (Bamidbar 21:34). Considering all of the great challenges that Moshe overcame before this, why did Moshe require such emotional support? We will take a look at the historical phenomenon of which Og was a part, from the time of Avraham until the time of David.

The Tanchuma (Chukat 25) raises three possibilities as to the reason Moshe was afraid of Og: 1. Moshe was concerned that they might have acted improperly in the previous battle, against Sichon, whether in being too harsh, or perhaps in involvement in some other type of sin in the process. 2. Og was the most fearsome of the giants who lived, a remnant of the great warriors who survived from the era of the War of the Four and Five Kings (see Devarim 3:11 and Bereishit 14). 3. Moshe reasoned that if Moshe was “only” 120 and Og lived to be more than 500 years old, he must have some great virtue that protected him.

According to the first opinion, the concern was about the degree of merit of Bnei Yisrael. According to the second, it was the physical prowess of Og. According to the third, the matter was the merit of Og, as expressed through his longevity. Rashi took the third approach and identified Og’s merit as having helped Avraham by telling him that Lot had been captured by the four kings. The lesson from this is that one can never know how great the merit of a single action can be, and how it could have impact even after many years. The Ramban took the first approach, which teaches us that one can never fully rely on oneself and should continue to daven for Divine Assistance. The Rosh accepts the second approach, which teaches us that even one who is used to having miracles done for him should consider the natural prospects even if he is one who has bitachon (reliance on Hashem). This is part of one’s need to put in efforts to succeed, and it is even more clear regarding one who is not used to having miracles done for him.

We would like to add the following idea, which we will continue to develop next week. Anakim (giants) are mentioned several times throughout Tanach. We find seven names to describe this unique group of people: eimim, refa’im, gibborim, zamzumim, anakim, avim, and nefilim (Bereishit Rabba 26:7). This is a sign that they had great significance at that time. We also find that an important demarcation in Yerushalayim in ancient days, Emek Refa’im, was named for them. This valley, mentioned several times in Tanach, was, at one point in its span, a border between the tribes of Yehuda and Binyamin (Yehoshua 15:8). It is also connected to Nachal Sorek, which means that it connected the Land of the Plishtim to Yerushalayim. Therefore, the wars against the anakim held a central part in the process of acquiring Eretz Yisrael for Am Yisrael, as we will develop next week.

Let us pray that we too will overcome our enemies. Let us think about those of us (including graduates of ours) who live in the area around Aza, which overlaps with the ancient Land of Plishtim. May they have days of quiet and tranquility, so that they can serve Hashem with happiness and a pure heart.

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