Power of deterrence: Israel's successes leave Moabites apprehensive

  (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

The Torah passages and Israel's holidays are full of important messages that are relevant and empower our day-today lives. Rabbi Shai Tahan, head of the Sha'arei Ezra community and head of the Arzi HaLebanon teaching house, opens the gates for us to understand these messages, from their source, in a clear way. This week: Power of Deterrence: Israel's Successes Leave Moabites Apprehensive.

Deterrence plays a significant role in ensuring our safety. We see its influence in our Parasha- Parashat Chukat, and the upcoming Parasha, where a strong deterrent kept our enemies at bay. However, when the deterrence weakened, they seized the opportunity to attack. In the verse (במדבר כא,א), we learn that after Aaron's passing, the Canaanites waged war against Israel. Rashi explains that this occurred because the Canaanites noticed that the pillar of cloud, which guided and protected the nation, had departed, as it was there in the merit of Aaron. Aaron's greatness served as a powerful deterrent, dissuading anyone from declaring war.

In contrast to the absence of deterrence, we observe in the subsequent Torah portion that the Moabite nation experienced fear in the face of the Israelites. This fear arose when their king, Balak, witnessed the Israelites' triumph over the Amorites. Initially relying on the perceived strength of the Amorites for protection, the Moabites realized their vulnerability upon witnessing the Israelites' ease in conquering their adversaries. This realization exposed the Moabites to the potential risks they faced.

Deterrence is an essential element in our modern era as well, playing a vital role in maintaining security by discouraging potential aggressors and preventing conflicts. It involves conveying a clear message that the costs of hostile actions outweigh any potential benefits. Strong defense capabilities, diplomatic relationships, intelligence gathering, and consistent policies all contribute to effective deterrence. By raising the costs of aggression and creating uncertainty, deterrence helps preserve security, promote stability, and foster a peaceful environment.

When speaking about the country of Israel, deterrence is crucial for Israel's security. It employs a strong strategy to protect its people and maintain stability. By reinforcing its defense capabilities and sending a clear message to adversaries, Israel demonstrates its commitment to safeguarding its interests and creating a secure environment. Deterrence plays a vital role in navigating complex geopolitical challenges and ensuring Israel's strength in the face of potential threats.

In our Parasha, the pasuk "Let's do the calculation" (Numbers 21:27) conveys a vital message.  The Gemara (בבא בתרא עח,ב) interprets these verses homiletically. “Hamoshlim”; these are the people who rule over [hamoshlim] their evil inclination. They will say: “Come to Heshbon,” meaning: Come and let us calculate the account of [ḥeshbono] the world, i.e., the loss incurred by the fulfillment of a mitzva in contrast to its reward, and the reward for committing a transgression. i.e., the pleasure and gain received, in contrast to the loss it entails.

This teachings highlights the value of deliberate thought and careful decision-making, urging us to pause and reflect before proceeding. This message encourages us to consider the potential consequences and weigh the factors involved, ensuring that our choices align with our spiritual well-being. By heeding this message, we cultivate a mindset of mindfulness and discernment, making choices that safeguard our spiritual journey and contribute to our growth.

This message invites us to adopt a mindset of rationality and prudence, recognizing that our choices have far-reaching effects. It reminds us to think beyond immediate gratification or impulsive reactions and instead engage in a process of thoughtful analysis.

By embracing this message, we cultivate the ability to anticipate outcomes and evaluate the risks and benefits associated with our decisions. We become more conscious of the potential impact on ourselves, others, and the broader community. This calculated approach allows us to navigate complex situations, mitigate risks, and make choices that align with our values and long-term goals.

Furthermore, "Let's do the calculation" prompts us to consider the ethical dimension of our actions. It encourages us to evaluate whether our choices uphold moral principles, promote justice, and contribute to the well-being of those around us. It urges us to strive for actions that align with our highest ideals and values, even when faced with difficult circumstances or competing interests.

This article was written in cooperation with Shuva Israel