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Parshas Devorim

Rabbi Pesach Siegel

Parshat Devarim

Oct 21, 2009



Sefer Devorim is called Mishnah Torah, a double of the Torah. It contains very few mitzvos not mentioned previously. What then is the purpose of the repetition? The Ramban also notes that there seems to be no repetition of the laws of the kehunah and bais hamikdash.

In this week's sedrah the war between Klal Yisroel and Og Melech Habashan is repeated. The Torah finds it necessary to record the size, material, and location of the crib of Og (perek 3, posuk 11). It was fashioned of iron, was nine amos long by four amos wide, and was located in Rabas bnei Amon. Unkelos comments that the amos standard being used is the particular amos that a king measures by. Of what concern is this to us?

Hashem enjoins Moshe Rabeinu not to fear Og. Rashi explains that Moshe feared that the "zechus" (merit) of Avrohom would assist Og. (parshas Bamidbar, perek 21, posuk 34). What zechus was this referring to? When Lot was captured by the four kings, Og escaped from the battle and informed Avrohom of his nephew's plight. Chazal tell us that his intent on doing so was in order to involve Avrohom Aveinu in a hazardous campaign. Avrohom would be killed and he would be free to marry Sorah Imeinu. Was this the zechus that Moshe feared?

Og is called "hapalit", the escapee. He escaped from the mabul (Targum Yonason), from the war of the four kings against the five kings (Rashi), and from the war waged by the Ammoni nation against his people (Rashbam). What was the secret of his longevity? He was a giant. The Maharal points out the significance that outside of Og, no being in the existence of the world has been so singled out for his physical stature (Gur Aryeh, parshas Chukas, perek 21, posuk 35).

Chazal record five occasions when the sun ceased in it's travels across the sky during Klal Yisroel's stay in the midbar. The final time being the battle between Moshe Rabeinu and Og (Rabeinu Bachaye, parshas Yisro, perek 19, posuk 17).

The Medrash Tehillim says that Og and Sichon were more formidable adversaries than Pharaoh and his army, and it would have been fitting for Klal Yisroel to praise Hashem with "shira" as they did when delivered from the hands of the Mitzriim. Why didn't they? Because Dovid Hamelech said shira, "ul'Og melech habashan ki l'olam chasdo". It seems strange that they were the saved ones, and Dovid Hamelech is the one to say shira.

Who was Og? Rabeinu Bachaye relates that he was the sole descendant of Kayin (parshas Devorim, perek 3, posuk 11). All of Kayin's issue perished in the mabul. There was but one survivor. Hash-em created an imperfect world. It was incumbent on Adam Harishon to complete that which was lacking in the world. Adam Harishon was great in body and in soul. His task was to unite the two, to act in harmony with one another. The greatness of the body is to serve the soul. He left two "legacies", Kayin and Hevel. Kayin embodied Adam Harishon in all physical matters. He was a gadol, in stature as well as longevity. He was a survivor.

Hevel was a gadol in the true respect. Hevel was killed by Kayin, and Shes was born to take Hevel's place. The development of the children of Shes constitute the process of return to the state Adam was in before he ate from the eitz hadaas, when the body and soul were as one.

With this perspective, we can see things in a new light. Og's motive for drawing Avrohom away was not solely because he was attracted to Sorah’s physical beauty. Rather, his purpose was to supplant Avrohom Aveinu.

Avrohom was the king of the known world (parshas Lech Lecha, perek 14, posuk 17). He possessed the trait of "gadlus". (In shmona esreh, the words - "hagadol, hagibor, v'hanorah", refer to Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov, respectively. See also Shmos rabbah, 28,1). He was successful in reconstructing the stature of Adam Harishon. Og wished to replace Avrohom's gadlus of the spirit with his own gadlus of the physical world. If he were to be king, the world would have an entirely different direction and purpose.

The Maharal explains that Moshe Rabeinu was not afraid of the merit earned by Og in reporting to Avrohom that his nephew was captured. He was concerned that Og, by merit of his being the recipient of greatness, which manifested itself in his physical proportions, shared something in common with Avrohom. The same zechus that Avrohom might possess would be shared by Og. This is the secret of his survival throughout the ages. Someone who is truly a gadol doesn't die. "Little people" have their limitations, "big" people have no end to them. Og sought to replace Avrohom through the vehicle of doing a service for him. When one performs a service for someone else, he forms a bond with him. It was this bond that Moshe feared.

In truth, there was nothing to fear. Og's greatness is rooted in the physical. It is a shallow greatness. Adam Harishon's physical stature was great, but even his physicality was rooted in kedusha. His body was kadosh as the body of a kohen is kadosh. (See Kli Yakar parshas Emor). Avrohom Aveinu is called a Kohen (parshas Lech Lecha, perek 14, posuk 18).

The gemorra in Megilla relates that majesty is a product of modesty. Only someone who is master over himself is fit to rule others. Rochel Imeinu, who suppressed herself when allowing her sister Leah to be a co-wife to Yaakov Aveinu, merited that kings should number among her issue. Klal Yisroel is warned not to even give the appearance of waging war with Ammon (parshas Devorim, perek 2, posuk 19). This is because the mother of the Ammoni nation exhibited modesty by not publicizing that her child, Ammon, was conceived through an incestuous relationship with her father, Lot. Mashiach Ben Dovid is a descendant of Ammon through Naama, the wife of Shlomo Hamelech. Majesty by the gentiles is to be found by Ammon. Ammon shares a common trait with Klal Yisroel (See Gur Aryeh, parshas Devorim, perek 2, posuk 9). The Torah's purpose in revealing to us the statistics of Og's crib are to show us the source of his power. The crib represents his source. The word for baby, "tinok", shares the same root as to suckle and nourish, "yenikah". It was large, indicating his potential size. It was made of iron, referring to his potential strength. It was located in Ammon - the source of majesty. Now the significance is clear of the crib being measured in "kingly amos" rather than ordinary ones.

The world is one of cycles. Hashem created the world and Adam destroyed it. The Avos and their children reconstructed what was lost and that was ultimately lost by the sin of the golden calf. Atonement was achieved and lost again through the sin of the meraglim. Finally, Klal Yisroel stands poised to enter Eretz Yisroel. Not a single member of the nation who participated in the sin of the meraglim was alive. The world is standing on the threshold of renewal. It is a time of great opportunity, but also one of danger. Og Melech Habashan chooses that opportune moment to attempt to tear down all that was accomplished. To emerge victorious in the final battle between Kayin and Hevel. The renewal of the world is at risk. Miraculously, Moshe Rabeinu topples Og. The mountain he had intended on throwing down on Klal Yisroel comes down on his own head instead. The path is set for a return to the world of the six days of creation, a world without sin. Therefore, the sun ceases it's normal path across the heavens and when the war has ended, it begins it's task anew in a refreshed world.

This is the beginnings of the birth of the true "malchus" of Yisroel. To be culminated by the emergence of Dovid Hamelech, who ultimately sings the praise of this battle.

At this time a renewal of the Torah takes place. It was given anew to the Bnei Yisroel who entered Eretz Yisroel. The Torah has new meaning to the ones who did not sin. The "Mishnah Torah" is the Torah of the body acting in harmony with the spirit. It embodies within it the entire Torah. The Torah is a process, and Mishnah Torah is the culmination of that process, the defeat of the influence of Og/Kayin.

If the above is true, then the topic of kohanim and the bais hamikdash is indeed a prominent theme in sefer Devorim, albeit in a hidden form.

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