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If you follow the commandments… to go in G-d's ways and bring yourselves close to Him, then G-d will enable you to possess those nations, who are more numerous and more powerful that you are… G-d will make them fear you and respect you, wherever you go (11:22-25).
There is no mention of going to war in this passage. The key point that Moses makes to the Israelites is that if they follow and live G-d's teaching, He will take care of their military security. "If" is the key word. There is no talk of the slaughter of the Canaanites here. On the contrary, the implication is that the Israelites will calmly infiltrate the Promised Land without creating too many waves - which according the record in the Book of Joshua is what happened in most cases (e.g. Josh. 16:10). Their past successes, such as those on the east side of the Jordan, will mean that the Israelites will be feared. However, by following G-d's commandments, the Israelites will eventually win the respect of those nations and will be looked up to by those whose paths they cross.
The key Hebrew phase used is 'dovko bo' (11:22) which literally means 'to cleave to Him'. Rashi understands that this is done by going out of one's way to associate with Torah scholars. The Ramban suggest that this is accomplished by consistent and persistent rejection of idolatry.
Onkelos however goes closer to the literal meaning, whose message is that G-d wants and expects us to come close to Him. It appears that the act of being close to G-d is what will eventually win the respect of the other nations. But he does not say how to get close to G-d.
As a suggestion, think about friendship. Having a deep bond with everyone we know does not generally happen. But we occasionally meet someone of either gender and within a meeting or two, build up a rapport that is so strong that it is if we have known each other all our lives. Even if our next meeting is separated by years, we pleasurably and effortlessly pick up the threads from where we left off. The relationship is enjoyable and beneficial to both parties. We feel proud to know each other, and we are so comfortable in that bond that it becomes part of us - nothing can shake it.
This is the meaning of coming close to G-d. Our Torah traditions - like time-defying friendship - should become so much part of us that we live them in comfort as opposed to as a member of the army of the unsure and embarrassed. It is that powerful, strong, yet intangible confidence that wins the respect of the nations. It is the quiet confidence that comes with coming close to G-d out of friendship which is as Rashi puts it, "as you did your bit for Him, He will do His bit for you".
For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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