You Shall Not Pass: Hukkat 2019

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Do you have many adversaries? Do you find yourself finding ways to work with them cooperatively when necessary? Or do you sometimes feel the need to be confrontational when advocating what you need from them?

When the Israelites aim to pass through the Amorite land, Moses asks kindly first — but not a second time:

The Pitch: “Israel now sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, saying, ‘Let me pass through your country. We will not turn off into fields or vineyards, and we will not drink water from wells. We will follow the king’s highway until we have crossed your territory.’ But Sihon would not let Israel pass through his territory. Sihon gathered all his people and went out against Israel in battle. But Israel put them to the sword, and took possession of their land, from the Arnon to the Jabbok, as far as [Az] of the Ammonites, for Az marked the boundary of the Ammonites. Israel took all those towns. And Israel settled in all the towns of the Amorites, in Heshbon and all its dependencies.” – Numbers 21:21-25

Swing #1: “It is interesting to compare the version of the encounter with Sihon found in Deuteronomy 2 with that of Numbers 21:21-25. The Numbers version also makes the case for the reasonableness of Moses’ appeal to Sihon. Moses promises more briefly that his people will not disturb vineyards or native wells, but Sihon refuses and is put to the the sword, his land taken by Israel. No ban is invoked or implemented, however. In the Numbers version, the ban is not a form of punishment, a way in which judgment is imposed upon the inhospitable resister of Israel’s divine destiny.” – Susan Niditch, War in the Hebrew Bible

Swing #2: “Moses did not add the word ‘please,’ as he had done in the case of Edom, as he did not really want to make peace with Sichon. This is why the messengers he sent delivered the most succinct messages possible. This is also why Sichon did not bother to send a reply to Moses, as opposed to the King of Edom who had sent Moses a warning not to set foot on his land.” – Rosh

Swing #3: “Israel is said to be like sand and the nations like the sea: They take counsel against Israel, but the Holy One depletes their strength. … Should not Sihon and Og have learned from Amalek? Still, ‘Sihon … went out against Israel’, and ‘Og … went out against them’. Balak, likewise. Should he not have learned from Sihon and Og? Yet Balak was determined to wage war against Israel, and so he sent for Balaam to come and curse Israel.” – Yalkut

Late-Inning Questions: Do you think the Israelites fought with the Amorites too quickly? Was there a better alternative? Or did the ends justify the means? How do you know when confrontation is necessary? 

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of confrontation, a recent study by FanGraphs found that Major League managers are ejected from games less often as they age. Is it because they grow more passive as they get older, or perhaps they understand better the futility of losing their temper with umpires?

Shabbat Shalom!