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Repairing the World

Thursday, 30 October, 2014 - 9:42 pm

The Torah, in this week’s portion, tells us about a fugitive who relates to Avram that his kinsman, Lot, was captured.  Avram armed three hundred and eighteen men and pursued the captors until the area of Dan. 

The Torah leaves out many of the details about this fugitive, including his identity. Most commentaries identify him to be Og, the (future) king of Bashan.

A bit of what we know about Og:

  • He was a giant person 
  • His bed was made out of iron
  • The size of his bed was 18 ft by 8 feet (think large garage door)
  • He was circumcised
  • He lived till he was at least 450 years old 

Og gives the impression of being a upright person and one who agrees with the principles of tikun olam, repairing the world and making the world a better place. We see this in the above story, when Og enabled the mitzvah of Pidyon Shevuyim – redeeming of captives.

The unique value that the Jewish people bring in tikkun olam is 'l'taken olam b'malchut Shaddai” - we believe in repairing the world in order to bring recognition that the world is under the dominion of G-d. While Og did do good things, he did them when it agreed with his intellect. Og failed to recognize the integral motive for the mitzvot. We observe them because of our faith and trust in G-d; because G-d wants us to do them.

Doing good deeds based on rationale is problematic as it allows one to rationalize evil and reframe it as a good thing. We see this by the story of Og. The Midrash tells us that the reason that Og told Abram about Lot's capture was his hope that Abram would die trying to save Lot. Sarai would then be an eligible beautiful woman who he can marry. He did this again when making a huge iron bed showing that ‘might makes right’, the stronger you are the more you can bully people into your way of doing things.

In the end, Og died at the hands of Moshe during a normal battle, no major miracle. Moshe represents spirituality, Og represents corporeality. Naturally, G-d centered spirituality will win.

Hope to see you all soon,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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