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 great aunt Rivkah Sorah Bas Zev Yehuda HaKohein in Z’chus L’Refuah Shileimah for:
-My father Bunim Tuvia Ben Channa Freidel
-My grandmothers Channah Freidel Bas Sarah, and Shulamis Bas Etta
-Miriam Liba Bas Devora
-Aharon Ben Fruma
-Mordechai Shlomo Ben Sarah Tili
-And all of the Cholei Yisrael
-It should also be a Z’chus for an Aliyah of the holy Neshamah of Dovid Avraham Ben Chiya Kehas—R’ Dovid Winiarz ZT”L 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
* חודש אב ~ Chodesh Av *
“Heart in the East”
Towards the end of Sefer B’Midbar in Parshas Mattos [B’Midbar 32], as the B’nei Yisrael are preparing to enter the Promised Land, two tribes, Reuvein and Gad, politely approach 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. Despite his qualms over the whole idea, Moshe Rabbeinu makes a deal with these two tribes and fulfills their request, ultimately 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, who rejected Hashem’s land, should they see these two tribes backing out. That is a very legitimate concern. Moreover, what about Reuvein and Gad themselves? Was Moshe not concerned that perhaps they were rejecting Hashem’s Promised Land? Is it not equally their destiny to be a part of Eretz Yisrael and Am Yisrael?
What’s 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. So, the question here, is why Moshe would include half of Menasheh in this breakaway congregation? What relevance do they have to this arrangement?
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.
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. All of that said, is it not still our spiritual destiny to serve Hashem in His Land? So, maybe, even with the challenges, the correct thing to do is to live with the challenge 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 issue that Moshe Rabbeinu specifically included the half-tribe of Menasheh. So, 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?
For a better understanding of Menasheh’s significance, we have to consider Menasheh’s essence and role in the Torah.
Fast-forward to the very end of Sefer B’Midbar, Parshas Mas’ei [B’Midbar 36]. 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 are concerned about having less land for their tribe. Why did they have this fear? Because the B’nos Tzelafchad, as we might recall from back in Parshas Pinchas [27:1-4], who were also from the tribe of Menasheh, were concerned about their late father not having a portion of Hashem’s Promised Land in his legacy, as he had no sons. And so, Hashem commanded that they inherit land as well. The problem for the tribe of Menasheh though, is that if the B’nos Tzelafchad would marry outside the tribe, the land which was formerly a part of Menasheh’s inheritance would be transferred to the other tribe, as inheritance and possessions would follow the husband’s tribe. In this final story in B’Midbar, Hashem commands that the B’nos Tzelafchad marry within their tribe of Menasheh.
But, what is the point of all of this? These issues very clearly 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 goes back further to Menasheh’s father, Yosef HaTzaddik, as Yosef made his brothers swear to bring his body back to the Holy Land [Bereishis 50:25]. 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.
So, 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.
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.
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” [Bereishis 41:52]. 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 also says something. It says that maybe, there was a fear that Reuvein and Gad would lose focus. Perhaps they would forget that they’re in exile. Perhaps they might 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.
Considering all of the above, there’s just one more problem: Isn’t Menasheh’s name 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’” [Bereishis 41:51]. It seems kind of ironic, then, that Menasheh would be the symbol of “never forget.”
In truth though, the name “Menasheh” does not actually mean to forget, although many translate it that way. Rashi [to Bereishis 32:33] explains that the name Menasheh is connected 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 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.
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.
This yearning had to resurface in the hearts of the B’nei Gad and the B’nei Reuvein. This yearning has to resurface in us as well—that when we pray in Galus, as the Gemara in Brachos says [30A], we must face Yerushalayim with our hearts directed at the Kodesh HaKadashim (Holy of Holies). We have to have that feeling that “Im Eshkocheich Yerushalayim Tishkach Yemini”-“If I forget Yerushalayim, my right hand should forget [its function]” [Tehillim 137:5]. We have to remember that as we temporarily remain “behind” and are situated anywhere in Galus, as Rebbi Yehudah HaLevi says, “Libi B’Mizrach,” our hearts must be in the east. 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!
-Josh Eisenberg 🙂