Danny Ginsbourg
Danny GinsbourgINN:DG

We read in our Parsha (3:1-2):that, after having defeated Sichon, king of Heshbon, Bnei Israel ‘turned and ascended by way of Bashan, and Og king of Bashan, went out towards us, he and his entire people, for war at Edrei;

Hashem said to’ Moshe:’Do not fear fear him, for in your hand I have given him..and you shall do for him as you did to Sichon.’

Why, ask the commentators, did Hashem see a need to reassure Moshe:’Do not fear him’, on this occasion, which He did not do regarding Sichon?

Answers the Abarbanel:’Moshe and Bnei Israel were panic-stricken, thinking that Og and his army, by coming to battle against them despite their defeat of Sichon, must surely be mighty warriors, who now sought to avenge their kin, Sichon.

‘Therefore, Hashem felt the need to reassure Moshe:’Do not fear him, for I will deliver him, and his people and his land, into your hands’.

The Malbim adds:’On seeing Og coming to do battle with them, without any prior warning, Moshe was fearful.

Therefore Hashem re-assured him:’Have no fear of them’, for I put courage into their hearts, to attack you, so as ‘to give them and their land, into your hands, and so that you shall do to them as you did to Sichon’.

Our Sages (Niddah 61.)proffer a different insIght into Moshe’s ‘fear‘, first wondering:’Since Sichon and Og were brothers, why was Og different in Moshe’s eyes, than Sichon, from whom Moshe had no fear?

Answers Rabbi Yochanan:’Since Hashem saw a need to reassure Moshe, we learn that Moshe was fearful of Og, thinking: Perhaps the merit of Avraham Avinu would be counted for Og, as he was the פליט: the refugee, who related to Avraham Avinu, that Avraham’s relative, Lot, had been taken captive in the Battle of the Kings. This, in turn, led Avraham Avinu to rescue Lot’.

Rashi adds:’In relating to Avraham Avinu that Lot had been captured, Og’s intention was that Avraham should be killed in trying to rescue Lot, so that he, Og, could marry Sarah Imenu’.

Nevertheless, expounds the Maharal, ‘Moshe was fearful that the good which resulted from this act of Og- as it led to Avraham Avinu rescuing the captured Lot- despite his base motive for doing so, would be reckoned as a merit to Og, in his battle against Bnei Israel’.

And here Rav Avigdor Nebenzahl asks:’How could it be that Moshe Rabenu, would be fearful of any mortal King, even the mighty Og?! This was the sin of the meraglim, who ‘doubted’ Hashem’s ‘ability’ to vanquish the local kings!

‘Surely, Moshe, of all people, knew that He who had defeated the mighty Pharoah, could defeat Og’.

‘Therefore, our Sages explain that Moshe’s fear was not from the physical might of Og, but from Og’s ‘spiritual’ merits- from the zechut that Og, as our Sages relate, informed Avraham Avinu, of the capture of Lot, and that , as a result, there was a kiddush Hashem, because Avraham then defeated the four kings, and rescued Lot.

‘Moshe Rabenu feared that, despite the centuries which had elapsed, this act of Og would still be a merit to Og, in his battle with Israel; and this, despite his base motive in informing Avraham’.

And, notes the Rav:‘Og had already been richly rewarded for that act, by being granted longevity of hundreds of years, and by being crowned as king of Bashan, because of informing Avraham Avinu that Lot had been captured’.

Wonders Rav Nebenzahl:’Why was Moshe fearful of the zechut of this מצוה קלושה: very ‘weak’ Mitzvah? It surely paled into insignificance in comparison to the countless זכויות of Moshe Rabenu; and let’s not overlook the merits of the righteous Yehoshua, Caleb and Elazar ben Aaron, as well as many orher צדיקים amongst the people’.

‘The answer’, says the Rav, is that this brings us to a true understanding of the teaching of our Sages (Avot 2:1):’Be as careful with a light Mitzvah, as with a grave one, as you do not know the reward of Mitzvot’. We do not know this, and, perhaps, neither does even Moshe Rabenu!

‘But, perhaps, the opposite is true: because Moshe Rabenu, ‘the most faithful servant of Hashem’s household’, DID know this, he was fearful of even this ‘weak’ zechut of Og, until Hashem reassured him, that He would vanquish Og’.

Concludes the Rav:’Had it not been for the specific reassurance by Hashem, there was, in Moshe Rabenu’s eyes, cause to fear from the zechut of that act, for Og’.

A parting thought, from Rav Nebenzahl:’If this is the reward that even the wicked merit for an act from which good results, how much greater is the reward for those who keep Torah and Mitzvot!’.

לרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו.