Parsha Matos/Masei 5767: Remaining “in peace” During a War of Survival (Revisited)

By, Moshe Burt

In Parsha Matos, 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, preceeding 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.

Rabbi Artscroll sites Yoma (38a) on Perek 32, posuk 22 “then you shall be vindicated from Hashem and from Israel” in the dialogue between Moshe Rabbeinu and Sh’vatim Gad and Reuven;

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, I found the most poignant explanation of the situation as coming 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?'”, that ‘…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 whereever they are.'” (Torah Gems, Aharon Yaakov Greenberg, Parsha Matos, page 156.)

This explanation is as poignant now; nearly two years after the expulsion from Gush Katif and the Shomron and as the chickens of “disengagement” come home to roost despite whatever spin Olmert, Ramon, Bibi, Peres, etc. may put on subsequent events in Gaza, in Sderot and Ashkelon, as well as in the North. It was nearly two years ago that Israel left parts of the land of israel because “the war is not at our doorstep”, “that the settlers are the root of the problem,” not an existential enemy sworn to our destruction. It was last year at this time that Israel paid a steep price for its regime’s malfeasance. Israelis of our generation can’t seem to relate to the point regarding Sh’vatim Gad and Reuven and the War to capture the Land of Israel.

But here’s a point which ought to relate to our generation, that is if most Israelis are not so myopic as to not remember; we felt betrayed when we were attacked at the Munich Olympics, on the Holy day of Yom Kippur, or when an Air France plane was hijacked to Entebbe. Don’t dare feel betrayed, indignant again because, for the Secular Israeli who supported expulsion of his Jewish brothers and apathetically gave little thought to them, caring only for his own personal comfort and convenience, caring only for gaining “the normal life” of the nations, perhaps nothing Jewish could ever be sacred again.

So it is for all of the above reasons, and probably more, that every believing Jew belongs taking part in this battle, on all of it’s levels, to his fullest and beyond, to the extent that he can.

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard and the 3 captive Chayalim and the other MIAs be liberated and returned to us and that 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 the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!

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.