Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 22   No. 36

This issue is sponsored anonymously

Parshas Chukas

Brotherly Love
Edom & Yisrael

The King of Edom
and Sichon & Og

" Moshe sent messengers from Kodesh to the king of Edom" (20:14).


Why, asks the Ramban, does the Torah not record the king of Edom's name, as it does with regard to Sichon and Og later in the Parshah?


He answers that there would be no point in telling us the name of the king of Edom, who was a king like any other monarch, who was not renowned for his strength. This is in stark contrast to Sichon and Og, the giants who cast fear into the hearts of whoever saw them. There the Torah presents their names to publicize G-d's miracles, when it informs us how He delivered these awesome kings into our hands (as Rashi explains at the end of the Parshah).

And he cites the parallel idea in Yehoshua, where the Pasuk records how G-d delivered the five powerful kings of the Emori into our hands - which it does by name, and goes on to relate how Yehoshua captured the remaining kings of Cana'an, without mentioning their names.



" 'So says your brother Yisrael' (Ibid.).


Commenting on the term "your brother", Rashi explains that Moshe was reminding the king of Edom (a descendant of Eisav) that inheriting Eretz Yisrael was linked to the slavery in Egypt, and that those who suffered the latter were entitled to the former. Consequently, seeing as they, and not Edom, were the ones to endure the slavery, he would have no reason to begrudge Yisrael's entry into the Promised Land.


Note what the Ramban, in contrast, says about Moshe Rabeinu's message to the king of Edom: Moshe declined to add "the land that Hashem gave to us" (as he did in his message to Sichon), he explains, to avoid his anticipated reaction. That would have been based on the pangs of anger and jealousy that he would have felt, when he recalled that, had Ya'akov not stolen the birthright and the blessings from him by devious means, Eretz Cana'an would have belonged to him by right.

That's why Moshe considered it wiser to avoid any mention of their imminent entry into Eretz Cana'an.


Why they Asked Twice

"Let us pass through your land We will not drink the water from the wells; we will travel via the king's road " (20:17).


The Pasuk goes on to describe how the king of Edom refused their request, and how, after Moshe asked a second time, he threatened them with war.

Although Moshe worded his second request slightly differently than the first one, the difference is not initially clear.


The Ramban explains that in his first request, Moshe asked to pass through the towns, using only the main roads without veering to right or left. Moreover, he promised that they would not drink water from the wells that they passed along the way.

After the king's refusal, he asked at least for permission to traverse the land using the main inter-city roads or paths, without going through the towns, and that they were prepared to pay for any water that they would drink from the rivers and streams along the way. But that too, the king denied them.


Edom's refusal of Yisrael's request, despite the tremendous potential financial income of two to three million people drinking their water, is reminiscent of the enemies of Yisrael today, who place their hatred of us over and above their own interests, irrespective of the magnitude of those interests.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Ramban)

Sanctifying G-d's Name in Public

"These are the waters of Merivah and He (G-d) was sanctified through them" (20:13).

Because Moshe and Aharon died on account of them (the waters), Rashi explains . (The I'bn Ezra too, learns that way only he interprets "them" with reference to Moshe and Aharon (and not to the waters). When Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu applies the Midas ha'Din on His Holy Ones, He becomes feared and sanctified by the people.

The Ramban agrees with Rashi that the word "they" refers to the waters of Merivah. He disputes Rashi's interpretation of the Kidush Hashem that took place, however. That interpretation fits nicely in Parshas Shemini, where Rashi writes the same thing regarding the death of Nadav and Avihu. But it does not apply here, seeing as Moshe and Aharon did not die at that point, and it is the death of the Tzadik before the eyes of the people that created the Kidush Hashem, not the decree that they will die.


Consequently, the Ramban attributes the Kidush Hashem to the fact that G-d supplied the entire nation with water from a dry rock. And the Torah stresses "These are the waters of Merivah", to clarify the difference between this episode, and the episode in Beshalach, where there was no public Kidush Hashem, as Moshe had only gathered the elders of the people and not the entire nation, as he did here.


The Cana'ani, the King of Arad

"And the Cana'ani, the King of Arad, who dwelt in the land of the south " (21:1).

The Ramban cites a Pasuk in Yehoshua, which mentions the king of Arad (who lived west of the Yarden). Moreover, the Pasuk in Mas'ei, when referring briefly to the current incident, adds that the King of Arad dwelt in the Land of Cana'an, a term that is generally reserved for Eretz Yisrael proper, and not to Eiver ha'Yarden, where Yisrael were currently situated.


He therefore concludes that Arad was indeed a town in the south of Eretz Yisrael, whose king gathered an army and launched an attack against Yisrael, who were camped on the other side of the border. And this is borne out by the Torah's wording, which describes him as having heard of Yisrael's arrival, a term which it would not have used had he lived in the same area.


The Torah goes on to describe Yisrael's undertaking to declare them and all their belongings 'Cheirem', in the event that G-d delivered them into their hands, and how they subsequently kept their word. This they did, the author explains, a). by killing every soldier, taking none captive, and donating all the booty that they captured to the treasury of the Mishkan - immediately, and b). by banning the city (See end of article) - though this they accomplished only later, after the death of Yehoshua. And to stress their motives, they called the banned cities 'Chormah' (as is recorded in Seifer Shoftim, 1:16/17).


Although it is unclear as to exactly what they did with Arad after they 'banned' it, the Ramban later in the same article, describes it as 'Chermei Gavohah', which is a form of Kodshei Bedek ha'Bayis (land that belongs to Hekdesh that the treasurer of Hekdesh uses for the benefit of Hekdesh in any way that he sees fit - including selling it to add to the Beis-ha'Mikdash's funds).

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