This past Shabbat, the parashah was Huqath (Bemidbar/Numbers 19:1-22:1). This is the story of the red heifer, the striking of the rock that kept Moshe and Aharon out of Israel, the death of Aharon and ascension of his son El`azar, and the attempted passing thru a few kingdoms.
In this parashah, we learn the importance of respecting property rights and how that promotes peace. Additionally, we are taught about the defense of property without violence. Finally, a few examples of self-defense against aggression are presented, demonstrating the importance of being armed.
וַיֹּאמֶר, לֹא תַעֲבֹר; וַיֵּצֵא אֱדוֹם לִקְרָאתוֹ, בְּעַם כָּבֵד וּבְיָד חֲזָקָה.
וַיְמָאֵן אֱדוֹם, נְתֹן אֶת-יִשְׂרָאֵל, עֲבֹר, בִּגְבֻלוֹ; וַיֵּט יִשְׂרָאֵל, מֵעָלָיו.
But he said: You shall not cross! And Edom went out to meet him with a heavy (host of) fighting-people and with a strong hand. So Edom refused to give (Israel) leave to cross through his territory, and Israel turned away from him.
Moshe sent messengers to the King of Edom requesting permission to cross thru Edom. The Edomites were descendants of Esau and supposed to be friendly to the Israelites. Nevertheless, the king denied them, even when they promised to travel in the open areas away from the settlements and pastures and compensate for anything taken. Perhaps the king was wise to keep what appeared to him vagrants far far away from his land, in fear that the rogue Israelites would raid his people of their food and possessions. In any case, he had every right to enforce his property. Indeed, the Edomite army came out to ensure they did not stray near.
The Israelites respected his rights and travelled away from the kingdom to avoid trespassing. While the Edomite army was there to protect their land, the Israelites did not violate it and were unmolested. Respect and understanding of property rights promotes peace, even when there is a disagreement. Moshe and the Israelites were upset by the response, but accepted it. In a way, this shows a brotherhood between the two peoples, because the kingdoms the travellers came upon later were not so friendly.
וַיִּשְׁלַח יִשְׂרָאֵל מַלְאָכִים, אֶל-סִיחֹן מֶלֶךְ-הָאֱמֹרִי לֵאמֹר.
אֶעְבְּרָה בְאַרְצֶךָ, לֹא נִטֶּה בְּשָׂדֶה וּבְכֶרֶם–לֹא נִשְׁתֶּה, מֵי בְאֵר: בְּדֶרֶךְ הַמֶּלֶךְ נֵלֵךְ, עַד אֲשֶׁר-נַעֲבֹר גְּבֻלֶךָ.
וְלֹא-נָתַן סִיחֹן אֶת-יִשְׂרָאֵל, עֲבֹר בִּגְבֻלוֹ, וַיֶּאֱסֹף סִיחֹן אֶת-כָּל-עַמּוֹ וַיֵּצֵא לִקְרַאת יִשְׂרָאֵל הַמִּדְבָּרָה, וַיָּבֹא יָהְצָה; וַיִּלָּחֶם, בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל.
וַיַּכֵּהוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל, לְפִי-חָרֶב; וַיִּירַשׁ אֶת-אַרְצוֹ מֵאַרְנֹן, עַד-יַבֹּק עַד-בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן–כִּי עַז, גְּבוּל בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן.
Now Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, saying: Let me cross your land! We will not spread out into the fields, in the vineyards we will not drink well water; on the King’s Road we will march, until we have crossed your territory. But Sihon would not give Israel (leave) to cross through his territory. Sihon gathered all his fighting-people and went out to meet Israel in the wilderness, he came to Yahatz and waged-war against Israel. But Israel struck him with the edge of the sword and took-possession of his land, from the Arnon as far as the Yabbok, as far as the Children of Ammon; for strong is the territory of the Children of Ammon.
The Israelites were approaching the Amorites and wanted to travel thru the open fields of the kingdom. Previously, they had tried the same with their brethren Edomites, but were turned away. Unlike the Edomites who simply came out to guard their land, the Amorites attacked the Israelites. They were completely unprovoked in doing so. Consequently, the Israelites were both obligated and morally justified in defending themselves. Earlier, in Wayiqra/Leviticus, the Israelites are told to not stand by the blood of their neighbors. If one is attacked, they are to defend each other.
This event also shows the importance of being armed. One never knows when they will be attacked unprovoked. It is good to be prepared. Had they not been, they would have been slaughtered. Many Jews today are opposed to the idea of self-defense. It is insane how this can even be, after the Holocaust demonstrated that the resistors survived and the gunophobes perished. Even worse, most religious Jews live in areas where gun ownership is forbidden.
Ultimately, the Israelites prevailed against the attack, because they were in the right and God was with them. As a reward, they won the land of the Amorites. This parallels with a more recent event in the history of our people. In 1948 CE, Jews were attacked in the land of Israel just for being there and for asserting their self-determination. They prevailed, for God was with them, and gained land. Similar scenarios occurred in 1956, 1967, and 1963 (all CE).
Apparently, not learning of the lesson of Sihon of Amor, King Og of Bashan engaged the Israelites as well. His army was also roundly defeated and the land was taken possession of. If you start a conflict without reason, you are to bear the costs of the dispute. This is known as the English rule and is followed almost everywhere except the United States, a system that needs reform. Indeed, war is very costly and it is reasonable to put the costs of it on the fools who start the war (if it is unjust).
We have seen how important it is to respect the property and lives of others. And how it is wise to bear arms in the event that either needs to be defended. The Edomites were wary of the wayward Israelites and the Israelites had to defend themselves against the aggressive Amorites and Bashanites. Even when you want to cross someones land, remember they may not be ok with that. However, if you are merely walking near their land, and they attack you, you have every right to stand your ground and defend yourself.
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