Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Table Talk -- Devarim 5767

Question: I pre-ordered the 7th and final book of the Harry Potter series, which is due to arrive on Shabbos. Is there any halachic way to open the box, and if so, can I read the book that arrives on Shabbos?

Answer: No. Wait until after Shabbos, and then enjoy.

While most of the fantasy world created by J.K. Rowling emanates purely from her imagination, one detail from Harry Potter’s world actually appears in our parshah.

During Moshe’s review of the Jewish people’s experiences in the desert, Moshe reminds them of their defeat of the nation of the Emori, and especially their victory over Og, the King of Bashan. Og is no ordinary king. Aside from being alive since the time of the flood, he is enormous. In the words of Moshe, “his bedstead was a bedstead of iron…nine cubits was the length thereof, and four cubits the breadth of it.” (3:11) At the very least, his bed was 15 feet long and 7 feet wide. But Og isn’t just big. He’s also abnormal in another way.

The Midrash notes that normally, a person’s height is approximately three times his width. But from Og’s bed measurements, we can deduce that he was only about twice as tall as he was wide. From this, says the Midrash, we learn that “he was a disgusting creature, different from other creations.”

In other words, he wasn’t just a “giant”. Today, we would call him a “monster.”