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Parshat Devarim – No Fear, but Development


Deutorenomy 1:1-3:22 from 16 July till 22 July 2023

הַיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֗ה אָחֵל֙ תֵּ֤ת פַּחְדְּךָ֙ וְיִרְאָ֣תְךָ֔ עַל־פְּנֵי֙ הָֽעַמִּ֔ים תַּ֖חַת כׇּל־הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם אֲשֶׁ֤ר יִשְׁמְעוּן֙ שִׁמְעֲךָ֔ וְרָגְז֥וּ וְחָל֖וּ מִפָּנֶֽיךָ׃

This day I begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the peoples everywhere under heaven, – that is, upon all the nations of the earth[1]so that they shall tremble and quake because of you whenever they hear you mentioned. (Deuteronomy 2:25)

Chizkuni points out that this applied quite literally to the 7 Canaanite nations who lived in the country.

היום הזה אחל תת פחדך, “this day I will begin to give the dread of you, etc;” prior to this, when the seven Canaanite nations noted that the Israelites, instead of invading the land of the Edomites or Moabites detoured around their countries, they reasoned that if the Israelites were afraid to face these nations individually, they would be even more afraid to face a combination of Canaanite nations. When they observed that the Israelites had vanquished both Sichon and Og in short order, they had to revise their attitude and began to tremble at the thought of facing them. This is what G-d meant when he told Moses that as of that day the Canaanites dreaded the military might of the Israelites.

The 7 nations remembered the victory of the people led by Moses and especially the way it was done. When Moses raised his hands to heaven the Jewish people won, when his hands were down the people lost. That is, if the people focused their trust and hope, their eyes on, G-d won. It was realized that that trust in the G-d of Israel was justified because the G-d of Israel was stronger than any other deity. He had defeated every deity of Egypt, and there were quite a few of them, besides, the G-d of Israel had power over the sun, the moon, and the stars. When Joshua went to battle and asked G-d if the sun could remain standing so that the people could complete the battle, the sun remained standing[2]. All these facts made the Canaanite nations very fearful.

How is it possible that these peoples did not voluntarily surrender to Israel. Had they turned to G-d, recognized Him, they could have continued to live in the land as Ger Toshav [non-Jews observing the 7 mitzvot at the time of period when the Jubilee years could be observed]. Their loyalty to their idol was greater than the enormous fear they had of the sword. Rather than submit to a life in accordance with G-d’s will, they preferred to die. They did not want to be servants of G-d.

The seven nations could be looked at as the 7 emotional attributes humans have. To be specific:

1 Chesed (Kindness) 2 Gevurah (Severity) 3Tiferet (Harmony) 4 Netzach (Perseverance) 5 Hod (Humility) 6 Yesod (Foundation) 7 Malchut – (Royalty) If we as humans use these 7 attributes in the wrong way, we are like these 7 nations.

The seven nations – Eretz Canaan – could be thought of as the 7 attributes man has. To be specific: Chesed (Kindness)Gevurah (Severity)Tiferet (Harmony)Netzach (Perseverance)Hod (Humility)Yesod (Foundation)Malchut – (Royalty) If we as humans use these 7 attributes in the wrong way, we are like these 7 peoples. We then do not use the attributes the way G-d wants us to, meaning that we often use them in a self-centred way.

For example, let’s look at Chesed. Everyone knows that kindness is a good trait. Yet we can use them in the wrong way. We are kind to someone because we know it will benefit us ourselves. “If the headmaster likes me then…” “If I give that beggar money my friend will see that and then he will appreciate me…” Etc.  We should help people because G-d asks us to, because He is our example in this.

So too with Gevurah. We can sometimes be angry with someone and direct our arrows of anger at him, however, without achieving any positive result with him. Above all, we show that we feel we have been wronged. It is good to reprimand people. But it should always come from a loving heart. A heart to teach people in a gentle and respectful way. Just as G-d can punish us in His love in order to bring us to teshuvah, so that we improve our ways and learn to be better people.

We read in Exodus 13:5:

וְהָיָ֣ה כִֽי־יְבִיאֲךָ֣ ה’ אֶל־אֶ֣רֶץ הַֽ֠כְּנַעֲנִ֠י

So, when Hashem has brought you into the land of the Canaanites.

Canaan in this sentence begins with the Heh ה and ends with the Yud י. Which is equivalent to a Name of G-d. Israel conquers the land making it a land in which the attributes come under His rule and kingship.[3]

If we focus our attributes on G-d from beginning to end, then we are using them correctly. We must overcome bad attributes by focusing on the way G-d wants us to use them. We conquer as it were our 7 nations in our hearts through G-d by fighting for us. Because when we struggle to develop ourselves, He will help us.

We can learn from Israel how to improve these traits. They move into the land of Canaan and thereby bring knowledge of G-d to the land. If we let the knowledge and wisdom enter our hearts that Israel can give us, and are not afraid to lose our ego, our idol, then we develop ourselves and the world around us into a world that G-d delights in.

See among our books the recommended Mussar books by Alan Morinis and others to improve your attributes.

By Angelique Sijbolts


[1] Kehot Chumash on Deuteronomy 2:25
[2] Rabbeinu Bahya, Devarim 2:25:1-3
[3] Chabad Article: Vanquishing the “Lower 7”

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