The last part of Parshah Chukkat brings us closer to our ultimate entrance into Eretz Yisrael. As we headed north towards Bashan, King Og came out to meet us with all his people to make war. Hashem said to Moshe: “Do not be afraid of him, because I will give him and all his people and his land into your hand …”
Though Hashem promised us victory, this was still miraculous. According to the Talmud, Og was a giant prepared to destroy the Jewish People. Yet, Hashem saved us. As we say in the “Great Hallel” on Shabbat morning and Seder night: “He killed Og King of Bashan … His love lasts forever!”
This was the classic case of an evil giant being defeated by one who is righteous and small. As a result, we were now in control of Bashan, now known as the Golan Heights. HaRav Shlomo Aviner notes that the events in our parshah are parallel to what happened in 5727 (1967) when the Army of Israel defeated the Syrians in fierce fighting, returning the Golan to Jewish control.
The Syrians were the giant military might, 40,000 regular soldiers in tanks, well-protected bunkers and able to look down upon Jewish homes and easily attack. Yet, Hashem delivered the seemingly invincible enemy into our hands. “His love lasts forever.”
Debates over this region have dominated the political scene for quite some time. This is a pivotal area for the defense of the Land of Israel … Og knew it; and so do the Syrians. Still, the questions go deeper. What is the status of the Golan? Is it part of our Holy Land?
According to HaRav Shaul Yisraeli, an authority on laws relating to Eretz Yisrael, the answer is “yes.” He notes that not every place is at the same level of holiness. For example, Yerushalayim is the spiritual center of the Land; Har haBayit is at the core of the center. This principle works with the rest of Eretz Yisrael as well.
The Bashan region was one of the places taken by those who came up from Egypt, but not those who returned from the Babylonian exile. Thus, though it is at a lower level of holiness than other parts of Eretz Yisrael, it still part of our Holy Land! Proof is seen in Mishna Bikkurim 1:10 where we learn that first fruits from across the Jordan River (including Golan) are included in those that must be brought to Yerushalayim. Though it is not included in the “Land flowing with milk and honey,” since Hashem gave us this land, its fruits are included in the commandment.
HaRav Aviner reminds us that we don’t go live just anywhere. The purpose of Jews founding communities in different areas of Eretz Yisrael is to observe the mitzvah to settle every area of our land. The Golan was returned to us in our era as an act of kindness from Hashem. It resulted in part from the self sacrifice of the 115 Jews who were killed and 306 injured on the last day of the Six-Day War while liberating the Golan.
The Golan flowers due to the sacrifice of those who labor daily to build communities. The voice of Torah is heard in the only parts of the Land of Israel Moshe our Teacher set foot in! All of this, HaRav Yisraeli notes, is proof of the Golan’s holiness, and indeed adds to it (see Eretz Chemda 3:13).
Let us give thanks for the Golan and all parts of Eretz Yisrael that are in Jewish hands. May Hashem strengthen spiritually and physically those who dwell on every inch of our Holy Land, and may they bring us ever closer to complete redemption.
Rabbi Shmuel Jablon is menahel (principal) of Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia.