Joshua was a warrior, leading the Jewish people to conquer the land of Israel, where 31 kings, from all over the world, had a presence. * The number 31 serves as a unifying symbol, beautifully tying the Ark’s spiritual journey with the conquest of the holy land. * On the third reading of Parshas Zos Habracha.
As the Israelites stand on the cusp of entering the Promised Land, Moses gives his final blessings to each of the twelve tribes. For Joseph and his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, Moses offers a dual blessing symbolizing both might and majesty. This is encapsulated by the image of the horns of a re'em—a powerful, possibly mythical animal often identified with an oryx or a unicorn. The horns symbolize strength and the ability to lead.
The centerpiece of Moses' blessing to Joseph is found in the verse from Deuteronomy 33:17: "With them, he will gore peoples together [throughout all] the ends of the earth." This verse serves as the foundation for Rashi's exploration of the historical and spiritual implications of the "31 kings" vanquished by Joshua, Joseph's descendant. Rashi raises an intriguing question: were these kings native solely to the Land of Israel? His nuanced answer suggests that each of these 31 kings had interests or holdings in the Land of Israel, irrespective of their origins. According to Rashi, this points to the universal importance of Israel, emphasized further by its biblical epithet as "The finest inheritance of the hosts of nations."
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF 31
In Jewish tradition, numbers hold a special significance, often carrying symbolic and mystical meanings. One of the ways these meanings are uncovered is through Gematria, a system of Jewish numerology that assigns numerical values to Hebrew letters. Within this intricate framework, the number 31 emerges as a focal point with profound implications for both biblical narratives and mystical explorations.
At the heart of this exploration is the Divine name Alef-Lamed (E-l), which holds a Gematria value of 31. This name is considered so sacred in Jewish law that it is forbidden to be erased. Rabbi Isaac Luria, commonly known as the Arizal, delves deep into the significance of this Divine name. According to his teachings, Alef-Lamed represents God's attribute of Kindness, known as Chesed in Hebrew. Within the Kabbalistic understanding, Chesed is one of the Ten Sefirot, divine channels through which God interacts with the world. The Arizal's insights extend to the profound implications of this Divine name, connecting it to the intricate spiritual structure of the universe and the harmonious balance between various divine attributes. It signifies how God's kindness permeates both the heavenly and earthly realms, influencing every aspect of existence.
The spiritual journey of the Israelites, led by the Ark of the Covenant, is first introduced in the Book of Numbers (Chumash). The movement of the Ark is signaled by a specific phrase: "Vayehi binsoa ha'aron..." ("And it came to pass when the Ark set out...and cast aside those You despise from before You."). This phrase serves as an acknowledgment of God's active guidance throughout their journey in the desert. Here the Hebrew word "Vayehi," which begins this phrase, has a numerical value of 31. This numerical connection is not merely a coincidence; it signifies a deeper spiritual insight.
God's guidance is a recurring theme in the history of the Israelites. It encompasses both their spiritual journey, symbolized by the Ark's movement, and their military endeavors, as seen in the defeat of 31 kings to secure the Promised Land. This dual narrative reinforces the idea of God's kindness in fulfilling the promises made to the Jewish people. The number 31 thus becomes a symbol that ties together these significant events, highlighting the overarching role of divine kindness in the destiny of the Israelites.