Sharing Torah Insights

Hindsight Is 20/20

Posted on ג׳ באב ה׳תש״ע (July 14, 2010) | in Devarim | by

In this week’s parsha, Moshe recounts the events of the Jewish People’s travels through the desert. As part of this description, Moshe describes how Hashem gave us the land on the eastern side of the Jordan river, owned previously by Og and Sichon and their nations. It says:

כד קוּמוּ סְּעוּ, וְעִבְרוּ אֶת-נַחַל אַרְנֹן–רְאֵה נָתַתִּי בְיָדְךָ אֶת-סִיחֹן מֶלֶךְ-חֶשְׁבּוֹן הָאֱמֹרִי וְאֶת-אַרְצוֹ, הָחֵל רָשׁ; וְהִתְגָּר בּוֹ, מִלְחָמָה. כה הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה, אָחֵל תֵּת פַּחְדְּךָ וְיִרְאָתְךָ, עַל-פְּנֵי הָעַמִּים, תַּחַת כָּל-הַשָּׁמָיִם–אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁמְעוּן שִׁמְעֲךָ, וְרָגְזוּ וְחָלוּ מִפָּנֶיךָ. כו וָאֶשְׁלַח מַלְאָכִים מִמִּדְבַּר קְדֵמוֹת, אֶל-סִיחוֹן מֶלֶךְ חֶשְׁבּוֹן, דִּבְרֵי שָׁלוֹם, לֵאמֹר. … ל וְלֹא אָבָה, סִיחֹן מֶלֶךְ חֶשְׁבּוֹן, הַעֲבִרֵנוּ, בּוֹ: כִּי-הִקְשָׁה יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶת-רוּחוֹ, וְאִמֵּץ אֶת-לְבָבוֹ, לְמַעַן תִּתּוֹ בְיָדְךָ, כַּיּוֹם הַזֶּה.

24 Rise ye up, take your journey, and pass over the valley of Arnon; behold, I have given into thy hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land; begin to possess it, and contend with him in battle. 25 This day will I begin to put the dread of thee and the fear of thee upon the peoples that are under the whole heaven, who, when they hear the report of thee, shall tremble, and be in anguish because of thee.’ 26 And I sent messengers out of the wilderness of Kedemoth unto Sihon king of Heshbon with words of peace, saying: … 30 But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him; for the LORD thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that He might deliver him into thy hand, as appeareth this day. {S}

The verses seem to be contradictory. After receiving a promise from Hashem that He had given us the land of Sichon, how could Moshe even consider sending “words of peace”? Hashem obviously had no desire to make peace with Sichon and his people! Additionally, if the Jewish People were commanded to go to war, why would they first give Sichon the opportunity to make peace?

The Ramban says that these pesukim are actually out of order chronologically. Moshe wasn’t told “behold, I have given into thy hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land; begin to possess it, and contend with him in battle” until after Sichon rejected the words of peace sent by Moshe. Initially Moshe thought that this peace attempt would be similar to his attempts with the Moabites and war would not be on the agenda.

After sending words of peace to Sichon, things suddenly did not look good for the Jews. Receiving Sichon’s battle-cry as a response to their peace overtures, they thought they had awakened a sleeping giant. The Amonites were an extremely powerful people, and after the sin of the spies, the Jewish People had not fared well in the battles they had attempted. Only at this point, once war was guaranteed, did Hashem promise that the Jews would be victorious over Sichon and conquer his lands.

With this understanding of how the story played out, we must ask why the pesukim weren’t presented in chronological order to begin with?

The Ramban answers that the Torah put the promise of success before any part of the story is recounted to let us know that no matter how things look, we must realize that He is pulling the strings and is fully in control. Even when things look like they are going badly, we must realize that Hashem has a plan thought out from the beginning.

As we contemplate the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash during the 9 days leading up to Tisha B’Av, it is hard to understand how Hashem could have allowed the destruction to happen. It is hard to understand what is the point of all the hardships we have faced over the last millenia of exile.

Yet as we say in Lecha Dodi every Shabbat, “Sof Maaseh, b’Machshava T’Chila — In the end, action; with an initial intention.” Everything Hashem does is premeditated and for a positive reason. It may be hard sometimes to see the reason, but we must recognize that He always does what is best for us. May we merit to see the ultimate good that this exile has prepared us for Bimheira B’Yameinu.


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