Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Chukat
To dedicate this lesson

Parashat Chukkat


Rabbi Sender Shizgal

Suvan 5768
In this weeks Parasha,Bnei Yisrael begin the conquest of Eretz Yisrael. Under the leadership of Moshe , they quickly vanquish Sichon, the Amorite king and his army. They conquer his entire territory, especially his well-established capital Cheshbon.
The Torah goes out of its way to point out that Cheshbon had previously been wrested by Sichon from the monarch of Moab. Had it still been under the control of Moab, it would have been forbidden for Bnei Yisrael to take it since Moab had been placed off limits by God.
Thus the need for the historical note. But scripture goes on to tell us more about Cheshbon telling us:
"Al Ken Yomru Hamoshlim. Bo"u Cheshbon! Tiboneh V tikonen Ir Sichon!"
"Concerning this, the poets said, Come to Cheshbon! Let it be built and established as the city of Sichon!"
The Midrash in seeking to understand this seemingly unnecessary passage proceeds to discover in it a fundamental moral lesson.
It begins by noting that the term cheshbon also has the meaning of ‘calculation’
‘Bo’u Cheshbon! Let us calculate the potential loss that one might suffer from ding a mitzhah against its reward. And the reward seemingly gained from committing a sin against its ultimate loss.
Tiboneh V’Tikonen! If you do thus, you shall be built strong in this world and be established in the World To Come.
Perhaps we can distill a further lesson.
What in fact were the poets proposing? They were actually writing a commercial for the new city of Sichon that had been totally devastated in the previous war.
Bo’u Cheshbon! Come be one of the first settlers in the new city Cheshbon. Calculate all the benefits that you will reap. There promises to be a thriving economy into which you will be able to integrate. You will enjoy a cultural environment that only a metropolis can offer. Make the calculation and you will surely move into and help establish the new capital.
When a 20th century Jew decides to leave, from say, South Africa to Canada, the US or Australia, he carefully makes his cheshbon. Which economy is more promising? Where are the better universities for his children? Where are the streets more secure?
Perhaps, the Torah is instructing us that this kind of cheshbon is only appropriate for a non-Jewish location.
However, when it comes to considering Aliya, one must not make cheshbonot. There is a mitzvah of aliya. It must not be measured in mundane terms. After centuries of Galut, Eretz Yisrael is there to be had. Seize the opportunity and never look back!.
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