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Friday, July 24

The Weekly Shtikle - Devarim

As sefer Devarim begins, and with it a recounting of the events that befell B'nei Yisrael in the midbar, we seem to bounce around quite a bit chronologically. While we begin somewhere towards the beginning, this week's parsha eventually discusses the wars with Sichon and Og which took place towards the end. There is an interesting linguistic discrepancy in the account of those wars. In 2:36 regarding the war with Sichon, the pasuk recounts, "lo haysa kirya asher sagva mimenu," there was no city that overpowered us. Only a few pesukim later (3:4) with regards to the war with Og, we find a very similar, yet slightly different phrase: "lo haysa kirya asher lo lakachnu me'itam." There was no city that we did not take from them.


I suggest that perhaps the explanation behind the different choice of words is that Sichon was stronger than Og - or at least his kingdom was stronger. After all, the Midrashim do go out of their way to mention how powerful and fortified his kingdom was. Therefore, the pasuk establishes only that there was no city that was able to overpower us. In other words, there were no defeats. That still leaves it to be interpreted whether or not B'nei Yisrael wiped them out on every front. Perhaps there were cities which were unable to defeat our army but we were unable to completely defeat them.

Regarding Og, however, the pasuk need not mention that there was no front on which Og won the battle. Rather, there wasn't even one city which B'nei Yisrael didn't take cleanly. It would seem that the Torah describes a more complete and decisive victory against Og than Sichon.


(Above, I mentioned that the order of the recounted episodes in Devarim is not chronological. As well, the introductory pesukim at the very beginning are interpreted by Rashi as referring to the numerous different challenges throughout the 40-year sojourn. There, too, it is hard to make sense of the order. I would love to see an explanation of the sequence.)


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

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