Perashat Chukat

Perashat Chukat

In our Perasha we read about the wars which Benie Yisrael miraculously won against all odds against Sichon and Og. Even in Tehilim we read about how miraculous the wars were against these powerful kings. When we piece together many of the Midrashim on this subject we come up with an incredible story as dramatic as any award winning story.

Sichon was taller than a tower and his army was more powerful than Paroh. Even though he had certainly heard about all of the miracles which happened to Benie Yisrael he still believed that he could concur the Jews.

Moshe Rabbienu personally slew him just as David killed Goliath.

Subsequently Og mobilized his troops to battle the Jews. According to Midrash he was a huge giant almost 200 feet tall. One of the very same giants who were around in the time of Noach. In our story he was 500 years old. In just one small meal he would eat a thousand oxen and drink a thousand jugs of water. He built 60 cities the last of which was fortified with a wall 25 miles high in the sky.

When Moshe approached to destroy the city Og was sitting on the wall with his legs dangling down to the ground.

Og planned to wipe out the whole Jewish people without even troubling his troops. He saw that the desert camp of the Jews was covered an area of 20 miles. He lifted up a mountain as large as the Jewish encampment and was going to drop it on them. He said “With this stone I shall destroy all of the Jews.” I am sure that this was followed by one of those wicked cartoon style laughs.

The Midrash continues to say that G-d foiled his plans by sending an army of ants into the huge stone. They gnawed at it until it crumbled. The debris covered his neck and he could not escape. The mountain was stuck there.

Moshe, who himself was 20 feet tall, took an axe which was 20 feet long and jumped 20 feet high. He reached Og’s heel which he smashed with the axe. Lucky for Benie Yisrael that he fell in the opposite direction and did not land on them. He then died and the Jews conquered his army. That is the end of this very entertaining Midrash.

In the words of Prof. Daniel Sperber “We are skeptical.” We certainly do not accept this story as a historical fact. There is even a Pasuk in Devarim which explicitly states that Og was not taller than a tower. In order to demonstrate how large the man really was the Pasuk says

…his bed was made of Iron… nine cubits… by 4 cubits….

If a cubit is 2 feet then his bed was 18 feet long by 8 feet wide. The man was probably very large but I am sure that he was smaller than his very large bed.

What then are our rabbis trying to tell us? I believe that the message behind these particular stories is that against incredible odds Benie Yisrael won wars. The reason why they one the wars is the subject in Tehilim which read earlier this morning.

He killed great kings, because his benevolence is infinite….

That includes Og. The Midrash and the Torah want to demonstrate to us how great G-d is, that he guides and protects his people.

Recently, I was discussing this with my Uncle Isaac Gindi. He said that the meaning of this whole story is to demonstrate to Benie Yisrael how easy it will be to concur the land. If with G-d’s help they could concur the mightiest Kings then certainly it will be just a game to conquer the rest. Uncle Isaac continued to say that this is to completely oppose the Spy’s who did not believe that they could win wars against the mighty Canaanites.

I believe that this is the main explanation of these Midrashim. Others have explained them allegorically