Og My Goodness!: D’varim 2019

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: What is your favorite tall tale? What do you like about it? What is enjoyable about legends that contain exaggerated characters and/or ideas?

As he begins recounting Israel’s wanderings, Moses includes a side note on one of the foreign kings — a giant in every sense of the word:

The Pitch: “Only King Og of Bashan was left of the remaining Rephaim. His bedstead, an iron bedstead, is now in Rabbah of the Ammonites; it is nine cubits long and four cubits wide, by the standard cubit!” – Deuteronomy 3:11

Swing #1: “Og is pictured as a giant, requiring a tremendous bed that had to be made of iron in order to bear his weight. This may also relate to his being the last of the Rephaim, being connected with beings who are now associated with the world of the dead.” – Richard Elliott Friedman, Commentary on the Torah

Swing #2: “When God brought the flood on the world, Og sat on the steps of the ark. He bound Noah and his sons by an oath to feed him, stating that he would be a slave for him and his sons all his life. Noah agreed to this, and made an opening in the ark so that he would be able to feed him every day. Og thus survived the flood.” – Pirkei Rabbi Eliezer

Swing #3: “This crib was kept in the city of Rabat B’nai Ammon (now Amman, Jordan). When they conquered the Refaim who lived there and only Og survived, they left this crib there to show that they had conquered a nation of giants like Og and took the kingdom from his hand. They therefore left his crib there.” – Nachmanides

Late-Inning Questions: Does the Torah seem more or less credible to you when you take into account details that seem different than our notion of reality? Does it not bother you, perhaps because you believe that God can do anything? Or do you see the Torah as a parable to teach you deeper lessons?

The Big Inning at the End: It’s amazing how stories of Babe Ruth still live on in baseball mythology. Particularly, the account of his “called shot” (his home run in Game 3 of the 1932 World Series, when he allegedly pointed to the stands and then hit the ball to that exact spot) remains shrouded in mystery. Perhaps the fact that we’ll never know whether Ruth called his shot only adds to his legendary mystique.

Shabbat Shalom!