Parashat Eikev continues to relay the history of Bnei Yisrael, as well as instructions on how to approach and conquer the land of Israel. The Torah states, “VeNashal Hashem Elokecha Et HaGoyim HaEil MiPanecha Me’at Me’at; Lo Tuchal Kalotam Maheir,” “And Hashem your God will drive out these nations before you little by little; you will not be able to destroy them quickly” (Devarim 7:22). Why must Bnei Yisrael conquer Eretz Yisrael little by little? Why does Hashem not simply give it to us?
A logical answer can be found in the next few words of the Pasuk. They are, “Pen Tirbeh Alecha Chayat HaSadeh,” “Lest the animals of the field increase upon you.” Even if Hashem drove the nations out of Eretz Yisrael all at once, Bnei Yisrael would not be able to conquer it all at once. Before Bnei Yisrael could finish conquering it, the land which has not yet been conquered would be inhabited by wild and dangerous beasts, making it harder to conquer. The Midrash explains that if Eretz Yisrael was cleared out all at once, Bnei Yisrael might think that they conquered the land by themselves, without Hashem’s help, and would eventually lose faith in Hashem. Ramban explains that this Pasuk is warning us, “You must conquer it yourselves, but you will not be able to do it quickly.” Hashem was telling them in advance what was going to happen, so that Bnei Yisrael could plan ahead.
I will offer a different answer to the question. When we work at something for a long time and finally succeed at it, we feel great pride in our work and happiness that our efforts paid off. We cannot experience that same sense of accomplishment when we are given something without having to work for it. The same applies to Bnei Yisrael. It would be much more gratifying if they put their own effort into conquering the land Hashem promised to them, rather than Hashem just giving it to them. This goes to show that not all things in life are easy, but when one accepts the challenges, and hopefully overcomes them by merit of his own efforts, the feeling of accomplishment is that much greater.