Divrei Torah on the weekly portions
Sitting on De Fence
“All the nations of the world will see that God's name is associated with you, and they will fear you” (Devarim 28:10).
Rabbi Shmuel Avigdor Feivelson comments that God has given most animals a form of protection, such as claws or horns. The lamb is an exception, because it has no natural defence against attackers, but has to rely on its owner for protection. The lamb produces wool and offspring and gives these to its owner, whilst the owner guards it from coming to harm.
In a similar vein, God has given most nations a means of protection. The descendants of Esav rely on the sword, as the verse states: “You (Esav) shall live by your sword …” (Bereishit 27:40). The descendants of Yishmael rely on their hands, as the verse states: “… His hand will be against everyone …” (Bereishit 16:12).
Only the Jewish people, like the lamb, have no natural defence against attackers and depend upon their Master, God, for security. Hence, our verse above teaches that it is only when our behaviour merits that “God's name is associated with you” that “they will fear you”.
The Torah states that after the Israelites had obliterated Sichon, King of the Emorites (BeMidbar 21:24), and Og, King of Bashan (BeMidbar 21:35): “Balak (King of Moav) … saw all that Israel had done to the Emorites, and Moav was petrified …” (BeMidbar 22:2-3). Balak’s initial plot to hire Bilam to curse the Israelites was doomed to fail, but Bilam’s contingency plan: “The God of Israel hates immorality, so entice them to sin with your women” (GemaraSanhedrin 106a) worked.
Here we see that when the Israelites behaved in a manner befitting that “God's name is associated with you” they were truly untouchable. However, when they stumbled in their behaviour, they lost their special protection from God and 24,000 people died. They only recovered when Pinchas performed his heroic act (BeMidbar 25:8-9) that aroused the Israelites to mend their ways.
With Rosh Hashanah just around the corner, we are challenged to sincerely mend our ways. Success will guarantee that: “All the nations of the world will see that God's name is associated with you, and they will fear you”.