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Shabbat Parashat Matot Masei 5780

Parashat Hashavua: More on the Role of the Moshlim

Harav Yosef Carmel

When the Torah tells of the rights to the land (on the eastern side of the Jordan) and peace of Moav and Amon, which Bnei Yisrael were not to disturb (Devarim 2:19-21), it mentions other occupants of their lands. These included fearsome giants, who were called names such as Refa’im, Eimim, and Zamzumim. The Torah concludes this section: “A great and numerous nation and lofty like the giants – Hashem destroyed them because of [the Amonites], and they inherited them and lived in their place.” What is the significance of writing about the giants in the context of the prohibition for Bnei Yisrael to harm the Amonites and Moavites?

It is important that it was Hashem, with particular Divine Providence, who gave Amon and Moav, the nations descended from Lot, their lands in the first place. Let us note the historical context. In the days of Avraham, the kings of Mesopotamia traveled westward to fight the kings of the area southeast of the main part of Eretz Yisrael. Indeed they conquered the Refa’im, Eimim, and Zuzim (Bereishit 14:5). While K’dorlaomer (the leading king) thought they were doing this for their own benefit, they were actually paving the way for Avraham’s family, as we will see.

The four kings had destroyed the strongest armies in the region, and Avraham saved Lot along with the kings of Sodom and the neighboring region, who were in turn later destroyed by Hashem. Therefore, Lot’s family had an easier than expected time in taking control of the region. However, Sichon, a remaining giant, took land from the first king of Moav. These were actually sections of the land that the sons of Lot never “deserved.” Later on, Moshe took from Sichon the same lands that the latter had taken from Moav and Amon, thus “kashering” these lands for Bnei Yisrael (see Chulin 60b).

If one looks at the complicated song of the Moshlim (Bamidbar 21:26-30), he will see that this history of the region is described in poetic form. Balak, the king of Moav, saw Bnei Yisrael gaining a foothold in the region and tried to change the outcome envisioned by the Moshlim by hiring Bilam to curse Bnei Yisrael. He thought that this would enable him to retrieve that which had been lost to Sichon. Balak did not realize that Bilam did not have any prophetic powers that could change situations; he just could receive prophecies that Hashem wanted to send him. In order to change things, Bilam employed kesamim, charms of different types (see Yehoshua 13:22), which work in the world of impurity, against which Hashem protected Bnei Yisrael.

The source of blessing is Hashem, and he shares His Divine Presence only with those who go on the path of purity, which brings to sanctity, which brings to divine inspiration. Bilam knew this, as well, and knew that he could not change the song of the Moshlim. To the contrary, his prophesy revealed that in the future, Bnei Yisrael would be allowed to capture from Moav even those sections that they were forbidden to capture in the time of Moshe (see Bamidbar 23:24 and 24:17).

Let us pray that the Jewish people will recognize that only on the path of purity and sanctity will it reach its potential and help improve mankind as a whole.  
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