|This D’var Torah is in Z’chus L’Ilui Nishmas my sister Kayla Rus Bas Bunim Tuvia A”H, my grandfather Dovid Tzvi Ben Yosef Yochanan A”H, my uncle Reuven Nachum Ben Moshe & my great aunt Rivkah Sorah Bas Zev Yehuda HaKohein.
It should also be in Zechus L’Refuah Shileimah for:
-My father Bunim Tuvia Ben Channa Freidel
-My grandfather Moshe Ben Breindel, and my grandmothers Channah Freidel Bas Sarah, and Shulamis Bas Etta
-Mordechai Shlomo Ben Sarah Tili
-Noam Shmuel Ben Simcha
-Chaya Rochel Ettel Bas Shulamis
-Nechama Hinda Bas Tzirel Leah-Amitai Dovid Ben Rivka Shprintze
-And all of the Cholei Yisrael
-It should also be a Z’chus for an Aliyah of the holy Neshamos of Dovid Avraham Ben Chiya Kehas—R’ Dovid Winiarz ZT”L, Miriam Liba Bas Aharon—Rebbetzin Weiss A”H, as well as the Neshamos of those whose lives were taken in terror attacks (Hashem Yikom Damam), and a Z’chus for success for Tzaha”l as well as the rest of Am Yisrael, in Eretz Yisrael and in the Galus.
מַּטּוֹת-מַסְעֵי ● Mattos-Mas’ei
● Why did Moshe submit the request of Reuvein and Gad? Why did he assign a portion of Menasheh to join them? ●
“Heart in the East”
As was discussed previously, towards the end of Sefer Bamidbar in Parshas Mattos, as the B’nei Yisrael were preparing to enter the Promised Land, two tribes, Reuvein and Gad, politely approached Moshe Rabbeinu as well as the other leaders of the nation with a request that they inherit the lands of Sichon and Og which would better accommodate their livestock, instead of inheriting land in Eretz Yisrael.1 Despite his qualms over the whole idea, Moshe Rabbeinu ultimately made a deal with these two tribes and fulfilled their request, allowing them to settle outside the Promised Land.
The question is why, or how, Moshe Rabbeinu could concede to such a thing. Among his concerns was the fear that the B’nei Yisrael might repeat the Sin of the Spies, rejecting Hashem’s land, should they see these two tribes backing out. That was a very legitimate concern. Moreover, what about Reuvein and Gad themselves? Was Moshe not concerned that perhaps they were rejecting Hashem’s Promised Land? Was it not equally their destiny to be a part of Eretz Yisrael and Am Yisrael?
What is strange is that not only did Moshe allow the tribes of Reuvein and Gad to live outside Israel in the lands of Sichon and Og, but when allotting the land to these tribes, the Torah reveals that Moshe assigned a half of the tribe of Menasheh to dwell among them as well, giving no apparent reason for this decision. Thus, the second question here is why Moshe would include half of Menasheh in this breakaway congregation. What relevance did they have at all to this arrangement?
ANOTHER ANGLE: The Request of Reuvein & Gad – Chutz LaAretz
As far as the first question goes, how Moshe could allow Reuvein and Gad to just stay behind in the lands of Sichon and Og, it could be that the ramifications were not as dramatically awful as we made them out to be. We presented the situation as though Reuvein and Gad were rejecting Hashem’s Promised Land and forgoing their spiritual responsibilities or destiny to be a part of Hashem’s people. Indeed, these were Moshe’s concerns.
However, if one looks at the give and take between Moshe and the tribes of Reuvein and Gad, it is very apparent that the intentions of the B’nei Reuvein and the B’nei Gad were far from what Moshe feared. The two tribes never spoke out against Hashem’s land. They merely presented their reasonable concern for their material lives which, we must understand, is not intrinsically a bad thing. For the purposes of their livestock, and really, their families at large, the spacious pasture provided by these lands were the right fit, and if their material life was something that completely did not matter, we have to believe that Moshe would not have accepted this request. It was a reasonable concern which these two tribes respectfully and calmly brought to Moshe’s attention. So, they were not acting like the younger Am Yisrael who demanded that Moshe send in spies who would slander Hashem’s land to the entire nation. They did not discourage the B’nei Yisrael at large from entering Hashem’s land.
In fact, if anything, they encouraged the rest of the B’nei Yisrael as they pledged to stand on the front line of the war during the conquest of Eretz Yisrael and not return to these lands until the entire conquest was finished. Indeed, they demonstrated beyond any doubt that they were one with Am Yisrael and that they certainly were not forgoing their responsibilities to be a part of Hashem’s people.
So honest and pure were the B’nei Reuvein and B’nei Gad in their reasoning, intention, and even in their presentation, that by the end of the discussion, Moshe was wholly convinced of their sincerity and would therefore not turn down their request.
GLOBAL PICTURE: Rejection of Hashem’s Land
But, the problem is, though, that as pure as they were, were the B’nei Reuvein and the B’nei Gad completely right? Apparently, their reasons for wanting to stay behind were validated by Moshe’s acceptance of their request. We need our material lives and literally cannot live without them. We cannot even serve G-d properly without those natural, material needs being met. With all of that said, is it not still our spiritual destiny to serve Hashem in His Land? Maybe, even with the challenges, the correct thing to do is to venture forth and serve Hashem in the best possible way.
Obviously, it’s not that simple. According to many Halachic authorities, it is not inappropriate to live outside Eretz Yisrael for financial reasons. However, even though the tribes of Reuvein and Gad were not completely wrong to tend to their families’ material needs, from a more spiritual perspective, Reuvein and Gad, like all of the B’nei Yisrael, belong in Eretz Yisrael. If that’s true, then Moshe’s granting them permission to settle outside Israel is still somewhat unnerving, because really, the idea of any tribes indefinitely living outside of Israel is certainly would seem to undermine spiritual mission of Klal Yisrael.
It could be that it was due to this larger issue—the concern of the indefinite rejection of Hashem’s land, that Moshe Rabbeinu specifically included the half-tribe of Menasheh. What difference would it make to have more people, a half of Menasheh, on the other side of the Yardein with Reuvein and Gad? What is the relevance or significance of Menasheh and how does their inclusion in the arrangement solve any of the problems?
STRAIGHT AHEAD: The Request of Menasheh – Eretz Israel
For a better understanding of Menasheh’s significance, we have to consider Menasheh’s essence and role in the Torah. What did the soul of the tribe of Menasheh represent?
For this information, we fast-forward to the very end of Sefer Bamidbar, Parshas Mas’ei.2 There, the children of Gil’ad, from the tribe of Menasheh, approach Moshe Rabbeinu. Fascinatingly, just as in Mattos with the B’nei Reuvein and the B’nei Gad, the B’nei Menasheh also make a respectful appeal to Moshe and the other leaders on the topic of land inheritance. The difference is that the land which the B’nei Menasheh are concerned about is inside Eretz Yisrael.
In any event, the B’nei Menasheh expressed concerns about having less land for their tribe. Why did they have this fear? Because the B’nos Tzelafchad, who were also from the tribe of Menasheh, as we might recall from back in Parshas Pinchas, were concerned about their late father not having a portion of Hashem’s Promised Land in his legacy, as he had no sons.3 And so, Hashem commanded that they inherit land as well. The problem for the tribe of Menasheh though, was that if the B’nos Tzelafchad would marry outside the tribe, the land which would have formerly been a part of Menasheh’s inheritance would ultimately be transferred to the other tribe, as inheritance and possessions would follow the husband’s tribe. In this final story in Bamidbar2, Hashem commanded that the B’nos Tzelafchad marry within their tribe of Menasheh.
Why is the above information significant? These requests of Menasheh clue us in on the vested interest, personal love, and yearning which the B’nei Menasheh had for Eretz Yisrael. Perhaps, this love for Eretz Yisrael can be traced back further to Menasheh’s father, Yosef HaTzaddik, as Yosef made his brothers swear to bring his body back to the Holy Land.4 Perhaps this love for Israel also made its way to Yosef’s other son Efrayim’s progeny as Yehoshua Bin Nun was one of the only two spies who would not slander the land.
Considering the yearning Menasheh had for Eretz Yisrael, perhaps we could suggest that Moshe situated half of them in the vicinity of Reuvein and Gad so that their presence, and perhaps their spiritual mentality, might influence them.
TWO DIRECTIONS: The Diaspora Dilemma
This is not to suggest that Reuvein and Gad necessarily were completely wrong. Perhaps they needed to remain on the outside for legitimate reasons, at least for the time being, even if it was a long time. At the same time, perhaps they had to make sure they had their priorities straight. The balance is a difficult one, but the tension and struggle must at least be acknowledged.
In truth, even in spirituality, one can be successful even one has to live in exile. Indeed, when naming his Efrayim, Yosef declared “…Ki Hifrani Elokim B’Eretz Anyi”-“…for, G-d has made me fruitful [prosperous] in the land of my affliction.”5 Of course, Reuvein and Gad did not need to hear this because they were apparently already confident in their decision that they needed to be on the outside. They were ready to succeed in exile, and indeed, that is important.
However, what Reuvein and Gad needed to do was to think about their situation and decide whether or not they were actually bound to the “exile” that they were about settle in. And perhaps we’re not ones to judge whether or not their decision was right for their situation. All we know is that Moshe permitted it; however, he made sure half of Menasheh would go with them, which speaks volumes. It tells us that maybe there was a fear that Reuvein and Gad would lose focus. Perhaps they would forget that they were in exile. Perhaps they might eventually count out the idea of ever returning. Perhaps they needed a little bit of reinforcing, a reminder of the main focus on the true goal, the spiritual goal of being in Hashem’s Promised Land. Perhaps, they needed a little push so that when the time would eventually be right, they would go back home.
RELOCATION: Menasheh’s Name – The True Meaning
Earlier, we suggested that the essence of Menasheh manifests itself in the tribal love for Hashem’s Holy Land. They represent the hope of returning home. However, if we’re truly investigating the essence of Menasheh, returning to Menasheh’s deepest roots, we necessarily hit an awkward wall when we consider the very basis for Menasheh’s naming.
Indeed, was Menasheh’s name not derived from Yosef’s forgetting of his home? At Menasheh’s birth, Yosef declared “…Ki Nashani Elokim Es Kal Amali V’Eis Kal Beis Avi”-“…for, ‘G-d has caused me to forget all of my toil [hardship] and my entire father’s household.”6 It seems kind of ironic, then, that Menasheh would be the symbol of “never forgetting” Hashem’s Holy Land.
In truth though, the name “Menasheh” does not actually mean to forget, although many translate it that way. Rashi7 explains that the name Menasheh is related to the “Gid HaNasheh,” or “displaced sinew,” namely, the part of Yaakov’s body which he injured in his struggle with the angel. Thus, the name Menasheh does not connote forgetting, but rather relocating. Indeed, Yosef could never forget his home because his home made him who he was. Instead, when Yosef needed to be exile, he “relocated” his memories of home which currently pained him to another part of his mind where he would eventually save them for later, because eventually, he would have to revisit those feelings because, indeed, his destiny was to return home to Eretz Yisrael.
What emerges is exactly what we started with, that this concept of having Israel in one’s heart is the essence of Menasheh, that even if Israel is not directly in the forefront of his mind right now, it will resurface there. Even if he is in Galus, his passion and a yearning to one day go back home still burns. Even if he is somewhat comfortable and relatively successful in Galus, he is not entirely whole, but he is broken, half a tribe at best, as long as he remains in Galus.
FINAL DESTINATION: Eretz Yisrael – Our Hearts in the East
This yearning would have to eventually resurface in the hearts of the B’nei Gad and the B’nei Reuvein. Indeed, this selfsame yearning has to resurface in us as well. Indeed, when we pray from the Galus, Chazal taught that we must face Yerushalayim with our hearts directed at the Kodesh HaKadashim, the Holy of Holies.8 We have to have that feeling that “Im Eshkocheich Yerushalayim Tishkach Yemini”-“If I forget Yerushalayim, my right hand should forget [its function].”9 The circumstances should be that although we temporarily remain “behind” and are situated anywhere in Galus, “Libi B’Mizrach”-“my heart is in the East.”10 Indeed, our hearts must be in the Holy Land. If we develop that yearning, we will merit to one day return there.
May we all be Zocheh to have our hearts directed towards Hashem’s Holy Land, yearn to return there, and Hashem should return us soon with the final Geulah and the coming of Moshiach, Bimheirah Biyomeinu! Chazak! Chazak! V’Nis’chazeik! Have a Great Shabbos and a Comforting Chodesh Menacheim Av!
-Yehoshua Shmuel Eisenberg 🙂
- Bamidbar 32
- Bamidbar 36
- Ibid. 27:1-4
- Bereishis 50:25
- Ibid. 41:52
- Ibid. 41:51
- To Bereishis 32:33
- Brachos 30A
- Tehillim 137:5
- The title of a poem authored by R’ Yehudah HaLevi