April 10, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
April 10, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Parshat Chukat

Although we often search to find a connection between the parsha and its haftarah, we have no need to wonder about Chazal’s selection this week, for the haftarah retells the very story found in the parsha, often using the exact same wording and expressions. The haftarah brings us back to the story of Israel’s initial victories, those attained in their wars against Sichon and Og, the Emorite kings on the eastern side of the Yarden. Actually, it also focuses upon the “non-wars,” the battles that Israel never fought. The parsha tells us that as Bnei Yisrael drew closer to Eretz Yisrael they passed close to the areas populated by the descendants of Lot (Ammon and Moav) and Eisav (Edom). In each case, Hashem forbade them from fighting their “cousins,” even though their cousins refused them passage through the land. God explained that the lands of these nations were promised to them by Hashem and could not be conquered by Israel. As a result, Israel skirted around the borders and never entered their lands.

Hundreds of years pass before the events depicted in the haftarah take place. It tells the story of Yiftach, one of the later shoftim, who confronted the King of Ammon, an enemy who demanded that Israel “return” their land to Ammon as they had “stolen” it before their entry into Eretz Yisrael. In response, Yiftach quotes our parsha and relates the true facts of how Israel conquered the lands of Sichon and Og but never attacked the nation of Ammon. He attempts to convince Ammon to listen to the truth and abandon their designs against Israel by rejecting their false narrative—but to no avail.

When I read this episode from Sefer Shoftim (perek 11) I imagine that so many generations in the past must have wondered why they needed to read this story at all. It may be interesting, but it leaves no real practical message for those living during the time of galut. Yet, today I sit in wonderment as we read a 3,000-year-old story about an enemy who falsified history in order to delegitimize Israel’s rights to her land, and then used those fabrications as an excuse to attack Israel. I read breathlessly, wondering if I am studying our holy Tanach or reading today’s current events! Our haftarah this week connects us to our parsha, to our past and to our present.

Those who forget our past may be doomed to repeat its mistakes in the future.

But those who deny our past seek to deny us any future.

By Rabbi Neil N. Winkler


Rabbi Neil Winkler is the rabbi emeritus of the Young Israel of Fort Lee and now lives in Israel.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles