Chukas – Choose Your Weapon

Approaching the land of Edom, Moshe Rabbeinu sends messengers to the region’s king, requesting passage through his land. Moshe reminds Esav’s descendant of how his ancestor’s brother’s descendants had sojourned in Mitzrayim for “many days” (hundreds of years), how oppressed they had been and how they “called out to Hashem,” Who “heard our voices” and released them from Egyptian servitude.

Moshe reassures Edom that the Jewish desert-wanderers will not encroach on its fields or vineyards, that they will happily purchase food and water (which they didn’t even need, as they had the mon and the be’er).

The request is tersely rebuffed. And Moshe and his people are threatened by Edom’s king with the words: “I will come against you with the sword” (Bamidbar 20:14-18). 

Rashi (based on Midrash Tanchuma, Bishalach) fleshes out the response: “You pride yourselves on the ‘voice’ your father bequeathed you…  I, therefore, will come out against you with that which my father bequeathed me when he said, ‘And by thy sword you shall live’.” 

These troubled days, under the pressure of contemporary enemies’ murderous designs, many Jews are less than fully sensitive to the fact that our “voice” – our prayers and Torah-study – are our most powerful means of undermining those who wish us harm. There may be superficial acknowledgment of the value of our “voice,” but less than full investment in the truth of that value.

We have witnessed colossal failures of physical means intended to protect Jewish lives. That should make us all the more cognizant of the truth of “Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, says Hashem” (Zecharia 4:6). 

Military might, to be sure, is necessary. But what ultimately empowers and protects both those on the front lines and Jews worldwide are our “voice.” 

That, and our true, honest and complete conviction that Torah and tefillah are indeed key to effecting victory.

© 2024 Rabbi Avi Shafran

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