Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Chukat
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of

Asher Ben Haim

Parashat Chukat

Fearing Fear Itself


Rabbi Yossef Carmel

2 Tamuz 5765
After defeating Sichon, King of Cheshbon, Moshe encountered Og, King of Bashan (Bamidbar 21:33-34). Despite Og’s superhuman strength (see Berachot 54b) Hashem reassured Moshe that he would overcome Og. Lest we think that Moshe feared Og’s physical strength, Rashi points out that Moshe feared his possible virtue for having helped Avraham (see also Rashi, Bereishit 14:13). Siftei Chachamim points out that we do not find previously that Moshe feared others’ strength, thus the fear must have been of a different nature. But why would Moshe fear that the minor, unintentional help that Og had done for Avraham would prevent Avraham’s own offspring from the entering the Land that Hashem had promised to them?

The p’sukim say: "Og, King of Bashan, went out toward them, he, and all of his nation for battle at Edre’i. Hashem said to Moshe: ‘Do not fear him.’" Note that while the Torah stresses Og’s whole army, when it comes to saying not to be afraid, only Og is mentioned. Let’s take a look at Og’s accomplishments. He survived the flood but certainly did not prevent it. He survived the battle against the four kings but was not among the victors (see Rashi, ibid.). The Torah (Devarim 3:11) describes him as the sole survivor of the Refaim. Despite his formidable size, the thing that he is most known for is surviving, not winning.

We can suggest that this is precisely what Moshe feared. Yes, he and Bnei Yisrael would survive Og. But as Moshe was about to leave the stage of history and leave Bnei Yisrael in other hands, the question was whether they were ready to continue with the right attitude. If Og were to have lost but escaped one more time, Bnei Yisrael would have had the feeling that Og was invincible. He would always be there, ready to win the next time, when they did not have Moshe there with them to fight and lead.

We see over and over, even during the period of Moshe’s leadership, that Bnei Yisrael got themselves into the deepest trouble when they lacked confidence in themselves. This quickly turned into a lack of confidence in Hashem’s ability to help them. It happened with the spies. Fortunately, it did not happen when Amalek attacked. How does the Torah describe their success, through Moshe’s upraised hands? "His hands were belief until the sun set" (Shemot 17:12). They needed the spiritually-based confidence that Moshe helped provide, that with the right dedication, they would prevail.

Certainly, it is crucial to have the merit that enables one to receive the Divine assistance that brings all different types of success. Yet we see that merit alone is insufficient. If the nation lacks the confidence that it can succeed, with Hashem’s help, or believes that there is a power that they cannot overcome, then the risk that lack of confidence will bring lack of faith in Hashem remains.

May Hashem give us the wisdom to know what we, His nation, are capable of achieving, with His help, physically and spiritually.

את המידע הדפסתי באמצעות אתר