Parshat Matos 5776: The Lesson of Sh’vatim Gad and Reuven for Our Generation and Governance

       



   


Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parshat Matos is sponsored by Yosef Moshe and Chana Rosenberg of Ramat Beit Shemesh, dedicated for the health and wellbeing of their children and family. To the Rosenberg family, many thanks for your sponsorships and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
olehchadash@yahoo.com
skype: mark.burt3
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Parshat Matos 5776: The Lesson of Sh’vatim Gad and Reuven for Our Generation and Governance

by Moshe Burt

Parshiyot Balak and Pinchas seem to represent a watershed event in the history of B’nai Yisrael. As noted in Parshat Pinchas, it appears that 1/3 of B’nai Yisrael died either by the hand of the Judges, or by way of the plague which struck some 24,000 Jewish men who partook in the Midianite/Moabite bazaar. The forays of Jewish men at the bazaar in Shittim and cohabitation of Zimri and Kozbi represented watershed and rock-bottom events and things couldn’t have gotten much worse. There was only one way for B’nai Yisrael to go from there — Up!

We find that after the rock-bottom event of the Ba’al Pe’or, the B’nai Yisrael FINALLY smelled what Hashem was brewing and unequivocably recognized Moshe Rabbeinu as their leader, as HaKadosh Borchu’s Annointed. The question is; Why, only now, did the Jews finally accept Moshe as Hashem’s Annointed Leader and ceased squabbling and rebelling? Was there something connecting the timing of this recognition with acquiescence by Am Yisrael to the knowledge that Moshe would not be leading the B’nai Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael? Was it that this latter recognition sunk into the collective consciousness of B’nai Yisrael and they came to the realization that, as the oft-recorded 80s disco tune went, “You don’t know what you got ’til you lose it”?

Near the beginning of our Parsha Matos, Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 31, posuk 5 states:

“So there were delivered from the thousands of the Children of Israel, a thousand from each tribe, twelve thousand armed for the legion.”

Rabbi Artscroll (The Artscroll Stone Chumash, page 905) cites Rashi who states, on the words “were delivered”:

This term implies that the Jewish warriors had to be coerced into going to war [against Midian during which they killed the 5 kings of Midian and the evil Bila'am]. This is to their credit, because they knew that Moshe would die when the war was won, and they did not wish to go, so that their triumph would not be at the cost of their leader’s life. For much of the forty years in the Wilderness, they complained to and about him, but now they showed their love for him and had to be delivered against their will.

And so B’nai Yisrael finally, unequivocally recognized Moshe Rabbeinu as their leader by their words and actions regarding the war itself, by Sh’vatim Gad and Reuven leading the nation in the war and by the inquiry of the daughters of Tzlafchad, descendants of Yosef (Joseph).

In our Parsha, Sh’vatim Gad and Reuven approached Moshe Rabbeinu regarding their desire to graze their flocks and settle their families on the East side of the Yarden. To this, Moshe Rabbeinu replied, “Shall your brothers go off to war, and shall you sit here?” (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 32, posuk 6)

Moshe was quite angry at the two Sh’vatim. He was concerned lest Gad and Reuven would avoid taking part in the wars for Eretz Yisrael, that other Sh’vatim might follow suit and B’nai Yisrael might be condemned to wandering in the desert another 40 years.

There are those commentators who hold that the hearts of Gad and Reuven were in the right place and that they had every intention, of their own volition, of taking part in the wars and, in fact, preceding the rest of B’nai Israel into battle.

There were other commentators who viewed the desire of Gad and Reuven to settle on the East side of the Yarden as representing greed, a secular approach to Eretz Yisrael and a tendency toward separatism vs. communal responsibility.

Regarding Moshe Rabbeinu’s response to the pledge of Sh’vatim Gad and Reuven to fight in the upcoming war; “then you shall be vindicated from Hashem and from Israel,” Rabbi Artscroll cites Yoma (38a) on Perek 32, posuk 22;

It is not enough for one to know that one’s actions are proper in Hashem’s eyes. One must also act in such a way as to not engender suspicion on the part of human beings.

But, the most poignant explanation of the situation comes from the Tiferet Yehonatan who is quoted in the sefer “Torah Gems” where he states, on “Shall your brothers go off to war, and shall you sit here?”:

“‘…When your enemies attack Israel — you shall sit here’ — you will remain in peace in whatever country you are living in? Do not think so for an instant, because a war in defense of Israel is a war for the survival of the entire Jewish people wherever they are.’” (Torah Gems, Aharon Yaakov Greenberg, Parsha Matos, page 156.)

This explanation is as poignant now; in the context of recent contemporary history, i.e. the geirush from Gush Katif and the Shomron and more recently, the meek, timid, equivocal reactions of Israel’s current so-called “most right-wing government ever” to the past nearly two years of the latest incarnation of the Arab/Islamic bombing, stone-throwing, hit-and-run driving/shooting, home-invading lethal, Jewish bloodletting, murderous terror war against our very existence.

What’s meant by the meek, timid, equivocal reactions of Israel’s current government? A soldier on trial because he fired at a downed terrorist murder to make sure the terrorist was in-fact dead in order to save his fellow soldiers. And after a 13 year old girl was shot as she slept in her bed in Kiryat Arba, the government promised a “new building tender” of 42 dwellings for Kiryat Arba only to have Kiryat Arba residents discover that this “new building tender” is a retread of an existing tender. And after a family was nearly obliterated — their vehicle overturned, the father, a Rabbi, murdered, his wife critically injured and 2 children injured by terrorists while traveling in their vehicle in the Har Hevron area on an Erev Shabbos, just a day after the attack on the young girl, the government announced that it will withhold from monthly tax transfers to the “PA” an amount equal to Mahmud Abbas’s monthly remuneration to the families of dead terrorists. Within a day or two after that announcement, we discover that the current month’s tax transfer was remitted in total, despite the government’s previous pronouncement.

So, again, the Tiferet Yehonatan provides this lesson from the confrontation between Moshe Rabbeinu and Sh’vatim Gad and Reuven — a lesson to be learned in our contemporary generations and by contemporary Israeli governance.

“‘…When your enemies attack Israel — you shall sit here’ — you will remain in peace in whatever country you are living in? Do not think so for an instant, because a war in defense of Israel is a war for the survival of the entire Jewish people wherever they are.’” (Torah Gems, Aharon Yaakov Greenberg, Parsha Matos, page 156.)

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of two years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
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Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.
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