OU Torah Insights ProjectParashat Chukat 5758
At the end of Parshas Chukas, the Torah describes two battles that the Jewish people fought en route to the Land of Israel.
The first battle took place with Sichon, king of Emori, who did not permit the Jews to pass through his land. The Jews were victorious and conquered much of the land of Emori.
Next, Og, king of Bashan, prepared to do battle with the Jews. At that point in time, one would expect the people of Israel to be confident, following their decisive victory over Emori. But this was not the case. Rather "G-d said to Moshe, Do not be afraid of him, because I have given him and his people and his land to you, and you will do to him what you did to Sichon."
Why was G-d's reassurance necessary? Why did Moshe fear battling Og?
Rashi explains Moshe's fear as stemming from an earlier role that Og had played. According to the Midrash, Og was the one who is described in the Torah as the messenger who ran from the battlefield and informed Avraham that his nephew, Lot, had been taken captive during the War of the Four Kings and the Five Kings.
Moshe was afraid that Og would be rewarded at this decisive moment for his earlier act of kindness and be granted a victory over the Jews. Thus G-d needed to reassure Moshe that the Jewish people would prevail.
The Maharal further clarifies Moshe's fear--and G-d's subsequent reassurance--with a quote from the Talmud: "The height of Moshe was ten cubits. He took an ax ten cubits long, leaped ten cubits in the air, and struck [Og] on the ankle, killing him."
According to the Maharal, Og's height was the source of Moshe's fear. How, Moshe wondered, could he defeat this giant? This was G-d's reassurance: through a desperate leap and a simple strike on the ankle, Moshe defeated Og.
Victory does not always go to the biggest or the strongest, the Maharal tells us. Rather the G-d's help and supervision are the only factors in determining our fates.
Though our enemies seem formidable and our task insurmountable, a small leap of faith is all we need to claim our victory.Rabbi Adam Mintz