Parashas Chukas

Near the end of this week’s parashah, the Torah recounts an episode of successive conquests of the city of Cheshbon and its surroundings, with the Jewish People ultimately taking control. The territory originally belonged to Moab, was conquered by the Amorite king Sichon, and afterward was conquered by the Jews. As part of its account of this episode, the Torah records a ballad about Sichon’s initial conquest of the territory from Moab. The Torah states: “Regarding this, the bards (moshlim) would say, ‘Come to Cheshbon – let it built and and established as the city of Sichon.” The Gemara expounds homiletically (Bava Basra 78a):
What does this verse teach? Moshlim refers to those who rule over (mosheil) their drives. They say, “Come and let us reckon the account (cheshbon) of the world – the cost of doing a mitzvah versus the gain, and the gain in committing a sin versus the loss.”
The Maggid asks: What is the connection between the land conquest episode that the Torah recounts and the homiletical teaching that the Gemara presents? He then provides an answer to this question.
Hashem commanded the Jewish People not to wage war with Moab to conquer their land. This command is recorded in Devarim 2:9, but had actually been conveyed earlier, and the Moabites knew about it. Hence, as the Jews approached the land of Moab on their way from Egypt to Eretz Yisrael, the Moabites felt secure that their land was safe from being seized by the Jews. But then Sichon came and conquered the Moabite city of Cheshbon and its surroundings, enabling the Jews to conquer it from him afterward.
Now, some people, on account of great physical robustness or wealth, haughtily believe they are immune to adversity, and can freely do whatever they please. Such people, as described in Tehillim 10, do not fear Divine retribution. Their attitude is bolstered by a view that an extraordinary occurrence would be needed to topple them from their position of security, and that Hashem will not disrupt nature merely to punish them.
The episode of Cheshbon refutes this outlook. This epsiode teaches that, no matter how secure a person’s situation may be, Hashem can easily undercut his position of security and bring adversity upon him to whatever degree circumstances require. If a person bears this point in mind, he will carry out a careful reckoning before each move he makes.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

1 Comment

  1. North Jerusalem Maggid of Dubno Project » Blog Archive » Parashas Chukas:

    […] cost of doing a mitzvah versus the gain, and the gain in committing a sin versus the loss.” We previously presented a segment from the Maggid’s commentary on this teaching. We now present another segment. In this segment, the Maggid discusses a key difference between a […]

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