“That is why the Book of the Wars of the LORD says:
“. . . Zahab in Suphah and the ravines,
the Arnon . . . ” — Numbers 21:14
The Torah portion for this week is Chukat, which means “requirement” or “law,” from Numbers 19:1–22:1, and the Haftorah is from Judges 11:1–33.
Recently, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, said this about the volatile situation in the Middle East: “Not a day goes by that we don’t find ourselves facing an incident with the potential to ignite into a large-scale battle.”
Thankfully, the IDF is able to diffuse those situations and allow innocent civilians to continue with their normal lives, without even the slightest clue that they were in danger. But the real thanks goes to God Almighty, Who performs countless hidden miracles every single day.
In this week’s reading, the last chapter is like a fast-paced epic. The Israelites faced crisis after crisis as they carried themselves to the borders of the Promised Land. The weary people had to deal with Miriam’s death, hunger, thirst, an attack from the Amalekites, then serpents, and many more battles against mighty kings and their armies. It’s no wonder that the sublime and seemingly insignificant song sung by the people during this time is all but ignored.
The Jewish sages, however, teach the significance of the song. One of the verses reads: “Zahab in Suphah and the ravines, the Arnon.” The literal understanding of this verse from the traditional Hebrew is this: “the gift of Suphah – a reference to the Sea of Reeds, or Red Sea, known in Hebrew as the Yam Suph – and the rivers of Arnon.” The sages note the reference to the miracle of the Sea of Reeds in conjunction with the rivers of Arnon. According to the sages, a miracle occurred at the rivers of Arnon – one on par with the parting of the Red Sea.
Here is what happened: As the children of Israel approached the land of Israel, the Amorites hid themselves in the crevices of the cliffs and rocks. Their plan was to ambush the Israelites. However, God miraculously moved the two cliffs together, thereby crushing the would-be attackers and demolishing the entire army of the Amorites. The children of Israel would not have even known that they had been in such grave danger had it not been for the blood that trickled down the cliffs and into the rivers of Arnon. It was then that they recognized the great miracle done for them – and they gave thanks in song.
Friends, our loving Father is performing hidden miracles for us all of the time. Some we may later recognize, and others we will never know about. How many would-be bombers did not succeed? How many car accidents have been miraculously avoided at the last second?
So let’s praise God and give thanks for the many miracles that He does on our behalf – both hidden and revealed. May He continue to do so and bless His people with peace!
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President