This week we begin Sefer Devarim, the final section of the Torah. It mostly consists of Moshe giving direction and advice to the entire nation before he passes on while they continue to Eretz Yisrael. In each parsha in this Sefer, Moshe discusses a point that he feels is important for future generations to know and understand in order to act properly as Jews. (See below for a link to an essay which points out the theme found in each parsha.)
The end of the parsha discusses the wars fought by the Bnei Yisrael against the various nations surrounding Eretz Yisrael. These wars were important as they were the beginning of the process of settling Eretz Yisrael. The most important of these wars was the one fought against Sichon, the King of Emori, who joined with Moab to fight against Bnei Yisrael. When Moshe tells over the story of Hashem commanding him to go to war, Rashi adds in an interesting fact.
“הַיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֗ה אָחֵל֙ תֵּ֤ת פַּחְדְּךָ֙ וְיִרְאָ֣תְךָ֔ עַל־פְּנֵי֙ הָֽעַמִּ֔ים תַּ֖חַת כָּל־הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם” “Today I will begin to put the dread of you and the fear of you upon the nations that are under the entire heaven” (Devarim 2:25). Rashi explains that the nations of the world are described as being “under the entire heaven”, because during the battle with Sichon, the sun stood still and didn’t set until the fight was over in order to allow Bnei Yisrael to finish the fight during the day. Consequently, by observing the change in the sun’s pattern, the entire world realized that Hashem had done a tremendous miracle for the Jews.
This wasn’t the only time Hashem stopped the sun for the Jews. In the times of Yehoshua, Hashem stopped the sun during one of the battles he fought while conquering Eretz Yisrael (See Yehoshua 10). However, by Yehoshua, the pasuk tells us explicitly that the sun stopped. How do we know that the sun stopped by Moshe if it’s not written out in the pasuk? By using a method known as Gezeira Shava, finding a common word between the two stories, Chazal make a connection between Yehoshua and Moshe and learn that the sun stopped for Moshe as well. The word used to make this connection is “אָחֵל”, which comes from the root “to begin”.
The Kli Yakar points out an interesting idea based off this connection. The battle with Sichon is referred to by the pasuk as when the Nations began to fear Bnei Yisrael. According to Chazal, this was a result of witnessing the unbelievable occurrence of the sun stopping its course. What is the significance of this particular miracle being used to commence the settling of Eretz Yisrael?
One way Chazal explain the order of the Ten Plagues is that they were designed in a way that Hashem would show unequivocally that He was the Ruler of the World. The first step to that was to remove any and all significance of the gods of Egypt. By attacking the gods of the Egyptians, Hashem was striking at the core of their existence and beliefs. Therefore, He first attacked the Nile River, the primary form of worship in Egypt, by turning it into blood. He performed a similar idea with the nations surrounding Eretz Yisrael.
Many of these nations worshipped the sun; therefore, Hashem decided to “attack” the sun. By changing the normal pattern of the sun, He showed that the gods of these nations were powerless and ultimately false and meaningless. After removing the “power” of their gods, He then told Bnei Yisrael to attack them and destroy them physically. So stopping the sun really was the beginning of the end for these nations, just like the pasuk explains.
Click here for last year's Dvar Torah for Parshas Devarim
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