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Friday, June 27

The Weekly Shtikle - Chukas

This week's parsha contains two episodes which are very similar and yet, at the same time, drastically different. After traversing mostly uninhabited dessert lands, B'nei Yisrael needed to pass through a number of different nations as they made their final approach towards Eretz Yisrael. Messengers were sent to Edom, Sichon's land (see Dikdukian) and Moav. The first two are discussed in this week's parsha. Both requests are denied. The exchange with Edom is quick and painless with B'nei Yisrael respectfully circumventing their land. Sichon took military action which did not end well for him.

While the two episodes clearly ended differently they curiously began quite differently as well. The message to Edom is preceded by historical anecdotes explaining how B'nei Yisrael got where they were. The actual request is "nabera na," let us please pass. The request to Sichon was "ebera," I shall pass. There is no polite "please." The request is also in the singular rather than the plural in the case of Edom. 

The key to the different tone used with Edom would seem to be at the very beginning, in the From: field, so to speak - "ko amar achicha Yisrael." After all the generations of tension and strife, we still saw fit to address Edom as a brother. We told them our story because we thought perhaps they would care to hear it. Whereas the request to Sichon was to pass through alone, the plural nabera in the request to Edom seems to imply not that we, B'nei Yisrael, should pass through but we - you and us - should pass through the land together. "Let's catch up a bit." 

But in the message to Edom was more than just fraternal cordiality. There was an underlying message of Divine strength and assuredness. When Yaakov and Eisav first reunite, Yaakov states (Bereishis 33:10) "for I have seen your face as one would see the face of Elokim..." The gemara (Sotah 41b) explains that this was a subtle hint to Eisav, as if to say "I've seen the face of God, so don't mess with me." It would seem a similar message is being sent here. B'nei Yisrael are making it very clear to Edom that they have been through a lot and HaShem has seen them through every step of the way, lest they have any notions of starting up with them. Although in the end, the desired result was not achieved, at least the episode ended without incident.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: It wasn't thrown

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