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Friday, June 18

The Weekly Shtikle - Chukas

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my Opa, Tovia Yehudah ben Yoel, a'h.

In this week's parsha, B'nei Yisroel approach two nations for permission to pass through their land. Both requests are rejected. The first encounter with Edom ends peacefully with B'nei Yisroel  avoiding an encounter by sidestepping their land. Their later encounter run-in with Sichon, the king of the Emorites had a less peaceful ending with B'nei Yisroel defeating them and conquering their land.


Aside from the difference in outcome, there is a noticeable difference in the approach that was taken to the two situations. When Edom is contacted, the request is preceded by a brief account of the past events. Then, they are asked, (20:17) "Nabera na be'artzecha," let us please cross through your land. When the messengers are sent to Sichon, they get straight to the point. They state, (21:22) "Ebera be'artzecha," let me cross through your land. The request (or demand) is in the singular and the word "please" is absent.


HaKesav VehaKabalah writes that the explanation of this discrepancy lies in the fact that B'nei Yisroel were given strict instructions not to wage war with Edom, whereas no such stipulation is made with regards to Sichon. Speaking of the nation in the singular form implies unity, the most famous example being at Har Sinai. B'nei Yisroel was to cross through Sichon's land together as a nation and ready to face war. They wanted to avoid such implications with Edom. The plural form implied that they would simply be a large group of individuals who would cross through the land with no threat of banding together to wage war. For the purposes of congeniality, Edom was approached with a softer tone and asked kindly. There was no need for pleasantries with Sichon.

With this understanding it is most puzzling to find the wording switched in this week's haftarah. When Yiftach gives the king of B'nei Ammon a history lesson, he recounts that Edom, Moav and Sichon were requested permission to pass through their land. With regards to Edom, he says they were asked, (Shofetim 11:17) "Ebera na," and with regards to Sichon, "Nabera na." Further, in the Torah it is written that Moshe sent the messengers to Edom and Yisroel sent the messengers to Sichon. Here, both sets of messengers are said to have been sent by Yisroel. Why did Yiftach switch the wording?

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
AstroTorah: Facing the moon for Kiddush Levanah (See also . You have to scroll to find it.)
AstroTorah: Oh Heavens! Seven or Two? by R' Ari Storch

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