Written by the rabbi
Dedicated to the speedy recovery of
Yehudah ben Hadasah Hinde Malkah
Although the Torah does not call attention to it, Parashat Hukat marks a great transition in the Exodus story. According to most commentators (and the simple reading of the text), Parashat Korah describes an incident that took place in the wake of the nation’s disappointment following the unsuccessful spy caper - during the early years of Israel’s travails in Midbar Sinai. By the end of our parashah, on the other hand, we hear about the negotiations between Moshe and the kings of the nations bordering the Land of Israel in the final year of the 40-year trek through the desert. The wars that follow on the Jordan River’s "east bank" constitute the first stage in the actual conquest and settlement of Eretz Yisrael as promised to the Patriarchs.
The Torah’s description of the failed negotiations with the neighboring kings (Sihon, Og, etc.), as well as the wars that followed, appears to have been part of the basic curriculum taught to Jewish children in the following generations. When Yiftah HaGiladi (Shoftim 11-12, a section of which is this week’s haftarah) needs to defend Am Yisrael from the attacks of the Amonites, he responds not only with a successful military defense, but first and foremost with a historical refutation of the Amonites’ claim to the Land. Knowing that our claim to the Land is true and that the enemy’s claim is spurious is a precondition for rallying the support that is necessary for a successful engagement with the enemy.
In our own day it is essential that we be knowledgeable about the history of Eretz Yisrael - both ancient and modern - so that we will be able to refute the false claims of others, and even more so, that we will understand that it is our right and destiny to live there.
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