Double, Negative

Double Stipulation

As our Parsha begins, the Jewish nation was poised to enter the Promised Land after so many obstacles and delays. And now a new monkey-wrench is thrown into the mix. The two tribes of Re’uvein and Gad want to stay behind and receive their portion of the land on the east side of the Jordan River.

Moses becomes very upset and rebukes them for appropriating the errant ways of their fathers who refused to enter the Promised Land.  It seemed that the new generation had not learned a lesson from the past.

The two tribes respond that they never intended to remain behind while their brethren would be fighting the battles of conquest. Rather, they were prepared to go into the Promised Land and fight alongside the other tribes. Only after the land would be successfully conquered and settled would they return to the east bank of the Jordan and receive their share of the land there.

Moses then “ratified” their proposal in the following manner:

“If you do this thing, if you arm yourselves for battle before G‑d, and your army crosses the Jordan before G‑d—then afterwards you may return. You will be free to G‑d and Israel, and this land will become your inheritance before G‑d.”

Interestingly, Moses is not satisfied with his clear directive to them and rephrases the same message in the negative: “But, if you do not do so, then you will have sinned against G‑d, and you should know that your sin will find you.”

Moses reiterates this message to Elazar, the High Priest and all the other Jewish leaders:

“If the descendants of Gad and Reuven cross the Jordan with you before G‑d, and the Land is conquered before you, give them the land of Gilad as an inheritance.” And again here, Moses repeats the conditions of the deal he made with Reuven and Gad in the negative: “But, if they do not cross over with you armed, they will receive an inheritance with you in the Land of Cana’an.”

The fact that Moses stated his condition for them in both the affirmative (“If you do this thing…”) and in the negative (“But, if you do not do so…”) serves as the basis of a Talmudic law concerning conditions attached to all transactions and agreements.

For example, if someone were to stipulate, “I am selling you this house on the condition that you travel with me on this day,” the condition would not be binding unless it was followed by the negative statement: “If you don’t travel with me on this day, the sale shall be null and void.”

What is the spiritual meaning of the need for phrasing a condition in both the positive and negative forms? And why did the Torah choose to teach this law with regard to the conquest of Israel?

Extending Israel

A certain Chasid went to his Rebbe, known as the Tzemach Tzedek (the third Rebbe of Chabad) seeking permission to move to Israel. The Rebbe’s response was: “Make Israel here.” Despite the fact that we pray daily for the day that all the Jews in the Diaspora will return to Israel under the guidance of Moshiach, often, our mission now as Jews livingin outside of Israel, is to transform our own environment in the Diaspora into the spiritual of Israel. Conquest of Israel implies that we harness our material resources in the service of G‑d and transform our environment into one that is conducive to the performance of the Mitzvos.

This is perhaps what the two tribes of Gad and Reuven wished to achieve by settling the east bank of the Jordan, implying that they wanted to take the area that is outside of Israel proper and make that an extension of Israel. They were not content with G‑d’s presence being revealed in the Land of Israel; they wanted to extend it beyond its borders. Their goal was to ultimately enable G‑d’s presence to extend even to the farthest reaches of the world.

Initially, Moses was not happy with their proposal.  Moses was concerned that they were trying to evade participating in the conquest. Perhaps, Moses thought, these two tribes believed that one need not be connected to the paradoxical concept of a Holy Land; a land that synthesizes the idea of detachment from the physical land (the definition of “holy”) within the framework of a physical land.

The words of the Tzemach Tzedek to the chasid to “make Israel here,” were not intended to extinguish the chasid’s passion for the Land of Israel. On the contrary, it was meant to take the ideal of the Land of Israel and extend it to his own turf. Moreover, making our own environment an extension of Israel is a stepping stone to getting there.

In truth, these two tribes were passionate about Israel. They were even interested in extending the concept of transforming physical “land” into a spiritual “Israel” even to areas that were not Israel proper.

We can now understand why Moses had to stipulate with them the negative side of their deal,  that if they would not join their brethren they would not get their share in the east bank of the Jordan.

If Moses would have simply stated that if they would join their brethren in the conquest of Israel they would be allowed to inherit their share on the other side of the Jordan, it would have implied that all Moses wanted from them was for them to assist their co-religionists. It would not have been fair for all the other tribes to to engage in battle while these two tribes sat at home in comfort.

By stating the negative as well—that if they would fail to join the other tribes in the conquest of Israel they would not inherit the east bank of the Jordan—Moses was, in effect, saying that there is no way we can live in the Diaspora if we are not committed to the ideal of conquest; of transforming the physical land into a Holy Land. 

In other words, the positive statement was intended to inform them that it would be unbecoming of them to let their brothers fight for the land while they remained safe and secure in their own territory.

By adding the negative, Moses was stating that if they would not cross the Jordan with their brothers it would be impossible for them to remain in their own homes outside of Israel. We cannot survive as a Jew in the Diaspora if we are not committed to the spiritual idea of “conquest.”

This is the legal basis for a contract requiring both the positive and the negative. The positive part of the contract—“I’m selling you my house on the condition that you travel with me”—establishes that the seller wants good faith on the part of the buyer. The additional negative clause—“But, if not, I am not willing to sell the property”—is intended to say that if the condition is not met, there can be no sale. In the former statement, the seller merely intimates displeasure if the buyer fails to meet the sellers condition. In the latter, he plainly states that, in that circumstance, the sale would be null and void.

In the same way, Moses was enunciating this double stipulation to the two tribes of Gad and Reuven. Moses was expressing displeasure with them for not shouldering the responsibility of conquest with their brothers. In addition, Moses was also making it clear that there was simply no way that they could hold on to their land if they did not join in the conquest of the Land of Israel proper.

Unconditional Support

The lesson for us in our own mission is to prepare the world for the Messianic Age when, according to our Sages, the holiness of Israel will spread to the entire world. This occurs when we draw upon the ideal of the Holiness of Israel and extend it to every part of the world.

G‑d offers us success in our mission to make Israel here when we realize that we must give unconditional support to our brethren in the Land of Israel who ensure the physical and spiritual integrity of Israel. Doing so expresses our solidarity with the Land of Israel and our brothers and sisters who reside there. 

Moreover, supporting the integrity of Israel empowers us to transform our own turf into Israel. This, then, becomes the force that propels us into the final Redemption at which time the entire world will experience the holiness of Israel, even as the sanctity of Jerusalem will spread to the entire Israel, and the Bais Hamikdash will spread to the entire Jerusalem.  All of existence will be elevated to a higher level of spiritual sensitivity and awareness. 

Moshiach Matters


A person who can find good in everyone personifies the aspect of Moshiach... Moshiach will be the defending counsel for all of Israel, even the wicked. (Imrei Pinchas)  

Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue. For more info, visit