Num 21.10-20 deals with Israel moving and going north to enter Canaan. The places mentioned from here to the end of the chapter will also deal with eschatology and the coming of Yeshua, not just their literal travels. If you go to a map, make note of the Wadi Zered (v 12), the Arnon (v 13) and Moab. Num 21.21-35 deals with the battle with Sihon, the king of the Amorites (“sayers”) and Og, the king of Bashan (in the Golan). Again, when you look at the places mentioned they will also deal with eschatology and the coming of the Yeshua.
Look at the places like the King’s Highway, the Arnon, the Jabbok, Heshbon and Bashan. These places are mentioned in conjunction with the coming of Yeshua to Jerusalem at the end of the Birth-pains. Why does the Torah use this whole story of Sihon and Heshbon? There is a saying, “Man has his plans and God laughs.” That is what history is all about. There are great ironies in history. The Amorites take the land from the Moabites, now Israel had a green light to attack it. God wanted Israel to have it, so he moved the pawns and Sihon conquered Heshbon for the Amorites. Then Israel conquered the Amorites.
We began this portion talking about how the chukim (statutes) are not so easy to understand. We want to quote from the book called “Tehillim” from Mesorah Publications, pages 1419, 1446. A basic explanation is given about this subject of the hard to explain mitzvot, so it begins by saying, “Beis HaLevi emphasizes that all the reasons advanced to explain the mitzvot of Hashem are inadequate, for man cannot comprehend the infinite wisdom of the Divine commandments. The ultimate purpose of all the mitzvot is really one and the same, i.e., an opportunity for the believer to demonstrate his complete submission to the will of the Almighty Lawgiver. True, each mitzvah provides other apparent benefits, but they are only secondary. (For instance: The prime purpose of the mitzvah of charity is to afford a person a opportunity to submit to God’s will by giving away his precious money. The secondary benefits realized by the performance of charity are that the benefactor refines his character and becomes a kinder person, and the impoverished beneficiary has some of his needs satisfied).”
“The true purpose of mitzvot, the enhancement of faith, is often unappreciated because it is a personal, intangible accomplishment that cannot be measured. The secondary achievements of mitzvot, however, are usually tangible and dramatic. They appeal to the emotions and their results are measurable, so most people misconstrue the subordinate benefit for the prime purpose. Therefore, this psalm begins: ‘Praiseworthy are those whose way is wholesome (who seek no reasons for or benefits from any of the mitzvot, whose only interest is to serve God and) who walk with the Torah of Hashem (v 1)’. The Psalmist continues: ‘You have issued your precepts to be kept diligently (v 4)’, i.e., we are commanded to fulfill these precepts simply because they are God’s commands, not because we anticipate receiving any benefits from fulfilling them.”
“The Chukim, statutes, are Divine orders with no apparent rationale. They are designed to teach each Jew to serve God with faith and confidence…The Psalmist hopes: ‘May my ways be firmly guided to keep your statutes (v 5)’; i.e., ‘Your statutes will teach me how to keep your other mitzvot for the right purpose.’ He concludes, ‘Then I will not be ashamed when I gaze at all your commandments (v 6)’, I will not distort the meaning of all your mitzvot and I will not be put to shame because of impropriety. If we deviate even slightly from other mitzvot, and do not preserve a general lifestyle of compliance, then a blind adherence of the chukim appears ludicrous to him.”
“R’Yerucham Levovitz of Mir explained that the ‘ta’am’, taste, of food has nothing to do with its nutritional value. A person could live a lifetime and thrive on tasteless food capsules or intravenous feeding. Out of Divine kindness and consideration, God introduced taste into the nutrients that sustain his creatures. Taste provides us with an incentive to fulfill our nutritional needs, for otherwise, we might neglect our meals and endanger ourselves. The same concept may be applied to mitzvot. Each command is essentially food for the soul, providing spiritual energy needed to keep the spirit healthy and close to God. It really makes no difference what actions God commands, for any action which man performs in order to fulfill God’s will provides spiritual enrichment. Any physical, psychological or social benefits accrued from mitzvot do not constitute the essence of the mitzvah, but are external incentives and stimuli enticing us to partake of the spiritual repast which our souls need. There fore, the Hebrew word describing the reason for the mitzvot is ‘ta’am’, which literally means ‘taste’, because the reasons are merely flavorings which make the essential mitzvot more attractive and palatable to us. Thus, the statute, which has no apparent reason, is called “chok”, which literally means a precise ration of food (see Proverbs 30.8); this commandment is devoid of flavor.”
So, in other words, keeping the commandments is like eating, and the food is the commandments. The reasons for the commandments are like taste and flavor, they make “eating” the commandments more inviting and “palatable” (acceptable to the mind or sensibilities) to us. By not keeping them, and following man made commandments, we spiritually starve and eventually die. Every time we keep a commandment, keep in mind that we are taking a bite of good spiritual food that will keep us strong and spiritually healthy. It is interesting that the word for taste (ta’am) and that is used to describe the reason for the commandments. Commandments are more attractive and “taste” good when we have flavor (reasons). In Prov 30.8 it says, “Feed me with the food that is my portion.” Where it says, “my portion” it is the Hebrew word “chuki” which is related to our word for this Torah portion, “Chukat.”
In Part 24 we will pick up with the next Torah portion called “Balak.”