If you think in your hearts these nations (who lived in Eretz Yisroel) are more numerous than me, how can I expel them (from the land). Do not be afraid of them. Remember what Hashem your Lord did to Paroah and to all of Mitzrayim. (Devorim7/17)
From this possuk we see that Bnei Yisroel considered themselves small in number in relation to the other nations.
Zera Shimshon asks that seemingly there is another possuk that contradicts this. It is written in the end of last’s week parsha (Devorim 7/7), “Hashem didn’t delight in you or choose you because you were more numerous than any people, (on the contrary) you were the fewest of all the people.”
From this possuk it seems that Bnei Yisroel thought that they were greater in number than the other nations.
A possible way to resolve this contradiction is that they initially thought they were the biggest nation (the beginning of possuk 7). However after Hashem told them that they were the smallest nation (second half of possuk 7) they totally accepted and internalized Hashem’s estimation and became afraid of the nations who lived in Eretz Yisroel because they were much fewer than them.
Zera Shimshon rejects this peshat because if this would be the explanation immediately after possuk 7 Hashem should have reassured them not to be afraid of those nations and not reassure them 10 pessukim later.
Zera Shimshon asks another question. Why is the Torah stressing that the fear of the nations will be “If you think in your heart…”? Why didn’t the Torah write, “If you say…”?
He explains these two questions in light of a machlokos in the first perek of Mesechta Avodah Zorah how to pasken when two groups of rabbonim have opposing views of a halacha. Do we pasken according to the opinion held by the greater number of rabbonim (according to the quantitative majority) or do we pasken according to the opinion of the group who are more intelligent and sharp (according to the qualitative majority)?
In light of this Zera Shimshon explains that initially Bnei Yisroel thought that they were chosen by Hashem because, since they received the Torah that “this is your wisdom and your understanding in the eyes of the nations” (Devorim 4/6), they were the most intelligent nation and Hashem paskens according to the qualitative majority and chose them to be His people.
Hashem told them however that the p’sak halacha is that we pasken according to the greater number and not according to the more intelligent. Therefore the ax Torah writes, “Hashem didn’t delight in you or choose you because you were more numerous than any people (qualitatively), (on the contrary) you were the fewest of all the people (quantitatively).”
This is the meaning of, “If you will think in your hearts”; when you contemplate this halacha that we pasken according to the majority in numbers, you will come to the (incorrect) conclusion “how can I (Bnei Yisroel) expel them”.
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Hashem reassured them that there is nothing to be afraid of, because there is another way to decide uncertainty.
For instance, in a place where there are ten stores next to each other. Nine sell non–kosher meat and one sells kosher meat. A person finds a piece of meat right next to the door of the kosher butcher but there is no sticker on the meat and he is unsure from what store it came from. The halacha is that we assume the meat came from the non–kosher store and one is not allowed to eat the meat. The reason for this is because of a rule, “majority and nearness we decide according to the majority” (rove v’karove holchim basser harove).
The poskim write, however, that this rule is not all inclusive. In a case where the one kosher store is COMPLETELY separated from the other stores then we assume that the meat came from that store and we ignore the fact that the majority of stores sell non–kosher meat.
In light of this we can understand how Hashem reassured Bnei Yisroel not to be afraid of the other nations even though that they are greater in number. “Remember what Hashem your Lord did to Paroah and to all of Mitzrayim.” Meaning, remember that when Hashem brought the plagues in Mitzrayim, He completely separated us from the Mitzriim and no plague affected us. Therefore even though that the other nations are the majority, since we are so close to Hashem and separate from the other nations He chose us and He will continue to protect us!