“Set out now and cross the Arnon Gorge. See, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his country. Begin to take possession of it and engage him in battle.” — Deuteronomy 2:24
The Torah portion for this week is Devarim which means “words,” from Deuteronomy 1:1–3:22, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 1:1–27.
Long before Jack planted the beanstalk that took him up to meet a giant, Moses confronted two real-life giants – King Sihon of Heshbon and King Og of Bashan. These larger-than-life enemies were the last who Moses would defeat on behalf of the children of Israel. Their conquest was miraculous and unimaginable.
When Scripture wants to stress just how large these giants were, it describes Og’s bed as being constructed entirely of iron, about fourteen feet long and six feet wide. In fact, the Bible tells us that his bed was preserved and put on display so people could see that such giants existed.
The conquest of these two giants, plus the fact that the children of Israel had to face them just before entering the Promised Land, was no coincidence. The Jewish sages note that Sihon was known as “Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon.” In Israel, when you want the check at a restaurant, you ask for the heshbon. Heshbon is a bill, an accounting. A heshbon requires one to take a look at the costs and see how things add up. A heshbon requires logic and reason. But heshbon was what needed to be conquered and overcome in order for the Israelites to reach their destiny.
The giants and the city of Heshbon represent our often intimidating realities. We may have a goal or a destiny that we’d like to fulfill, but logic, reason, and reality all get in the way. Our obstacles may seem giant, insurmountable, and they often deter us from even getting started. If we only listen to the voices of reason and logic, there’s no way we would ever reach our goals.
However, Scripture is telling us here that reason is to be conquered, and logic overcome. Not because they don’t matter, but because they are not the only things that count. What matters more than our reality is the reality of God. What matters more than how big our obstacles are, is how big our God is.
Just as the children of Israel had to face these daunting obstacles and trade logic for faith, so too, we are often called to put reason aside for something greater than ourselves. We are asked to overcome our earthly circumstances and walk with God on a higher plane. Only once we have taken that leap of faith will we be able to cross the chasm that seems to be keeping us from reaching our destiny. It is only when we attach ourselves completely to God that we can overcome all obstacles – no matter how gigantic they may appear.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President