Monday, August 22, 2005

Coincidence? Or not?

Those of you who believe with your whole hearts that there are no coincidences in the world are not going to like this one bit. Those of you who believe that hints to the week's events can be found within the sedra which belongs to that week are going to like it even less. I think.

You see, in parashas Devarim, the parsha we read on the week before Gush Katif was evacuated, I found the following verses and gloss.

The verses:

(1) Rise ye up, take your journey, and pass over the river Arnon: behold, I have given into thine hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land: begin to possess [it], and contend with him in battle. [D 2:24]

yet two verses later:

(2) And I [Moshe] sent messengers out of the wilderness of Kedemoth unto Sihon king of Heshbon with words of peace, saying, Let me pass through thy land: I will go along by the high way, I will neither turn unto the right hand nor to the left. Thou shalt sell me meat for money, that I may eat; and give me water for money, that I may drink: only I will pass through on my feet [D 2:26-28]

The gloss

Had Sichon acceeded to Moshe's request would he then not have fought him? Surely this would have been a criminal violation of God's word. Yet, had he, in spite of their peaceful arrangment made war with them [as per the command of God] that would have undoubtedly constitutted the breaking of his word. [Abravanel]

In other words, why did Moshe attempt to make peace with Sichon?

[For all other mitzvoth] if the opportunity for obseving them comes your way, you are obliged to perform them. But you are not obliged to pursue them. In the case of peace, however, it is different.... Although the HOBBH said to them:" Begin to take possesion and contend with them in battle," they pursued peace as it is written: "And I sent messangers... to Sichon... with words of peace." [Medrash Tanchuma]

And in Parshas Eschanon, the the parsha we read on the week after Gush Katif was evacuated, I found the following verses and gloss.

The verses:

Be sure to keep the commands of the LORD your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. 18 Do what is right and good in the LORD's sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers[D 6:17-18]

The gloss

The idea behind this command is as follows: At the begining He asked us to obsevrve "his statutes and testimonies which he had commanded you" and now He wished to add that you should do whish is right and good in His eyes, even in regard to those things where no specific divine command applies, since He loves that which is good and upright...accepting where necessary even a compromise... and going beyond the letter of the law. [Ramban]

The good that you do makes you worthy of the land. Your uprightnees gives you the spiritual height before with the material importance of your enemies disappears.... the principle primarily... orders us not to make use of a right which we could legally enforce... even that which you are legaly entitled you should relinquich for the sake of a higher positive good purpose. [Shimshon Rephael Hirsch.]

By my lights you have two choices: Either (1) accept that these verses and their respective glosses are telling us something important about the evacuation of Gush Katif, which went on during the week between the Shabbasot when these verses were read (good); (2) or admit that attempting to glean lessons about the week's event from Parsha verses is a meaningless parlor game that can be spun anyway you wish (also good.)