By Rabbi Yosef Shemtov:
At the end of this week’s Torah portion, Benei Israel are at the end of their 40-year journey towards Eretz Israel. Moshe Rabeinu sends messengers to neighboring cities asking them to let Benei Israel pass through their land in order to enter the Land of Israel. They all refused even though they were promised compensation in return for this act of kindness.
There were two very strong kings named Sichon and Ohg who sent troops to fight Benei Israel. Moshe Rabeinu never intended to fight those kings. The pasuk says that Moshe Rabeinu was very afraid and Hashem promised him that Benei Israel would win the battle and the Transjordan would be annexed to Israel.
The commentators were all puzzled by this – why was Moshe afraid? Didn’t he have faith in Hashem? Didn’t Hashem save Benei Israel from the superpower Egypt? Certainly Hashem would save them. The answer is that Ohg had a merit and Moshe was concerned that the merit might cause Ohg to win the war. What was the merit? The midrash says years ago when Lot, Avraham Avinu’s nephew, was captured in war, Ohg informed Avraham to go and save Lot. The midrash continues that Ohg didn’t have good intentions: he was hoping that Avraham would die in battle so that he could marry Avraham’s wife Sara.
It is mind boggling that Moshe Rabeinu was afraid of someone who did an act of kindness with ulterior motives. Hashem assured Moshe not to be worried about that merit. We see how far an act of kindness can go and how much merit one has for doing mitzvot and kind acts. These merits help people when they need help from Hashem. Many times our prayers are accepted because of the merits we have for doing mitzvot and acts of kindness.