Torah Fax
Friday, July 21, 2006 - 25 Tammuz, 5766

Torah Reading:  Mattot - Mas'ei (Numbers 30:2 - 36:13)
Candle Lighting Time:  8:03 PM
Shabbat Ends: 9:09 PM
Pirkei Avot: Chapter 1
We bless the New Month of Menachem Av
Be There

This week's parsha records the dialogue of two of the twelve tribes (Reuven and Gad) with Moses. Unlike the rest of the tribes, who were preparing to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land, these two tribes had large flocks of sheep and therefore preferred the open grazing spaces of the east side of the Jordan.
Their request to stay behind and receive their share on the east bank of the Jordan provoked a sharp reaction from Moses: "Shall your brothers come to wage war – V’Atem Teishvu Po - and you shall sit here?"
The simple meaning of this statement is that Moses was rebuking them for expressing a lack of desire to join their brethren in the conquest of the Promised Land. Moses' rebuke expressed his disappointment with their request and considered it to be a sign that they had no feeling for their brethren, or/and that they had no interest in Israel. Thus Moses said to them: How can you stay here when your brothers are putting their lives on the line to conquer the Land of Israel?
One may ask: Why was Moses so quick to reprimand them for their desire to receive their share on the east bank of the Jordan? If Moses felt that they must join their brethren in the conquest of the Land of Israel, he could have simply stated so: "If you want to receive your share here, you must join your fellow Jews in their battles for the land there." (Indeed, this was how the matter ultimately was resolved. The Reuvenites and Gaddites settled their families on the east side of the Jordan, and then joined their brethren in battle in Israel, only to return after the conquest of Israel was concluded.) If they had said no to Moses' request, he would then have been justified in getting upset with them. Why get angry prematurely?
The answer to this question can be found in light of a novel interpretation of this verse given by Rabbi Yonatan Eibushitz, one of the great Sages of the eighteenth century. Rabbi Yonatan provides us with a somewhat different shade of meaning to this verse, focusing on the Hebrew word teishvu, which can be translated as "you shall sit or remain." However, Rabbi Yonatan translates it as "shall you sit here tranquilly?"
Moses, in effect, said to these two tribes: "Is it possible that your brothers will wage war in Israel and you will feel tranquil and comfortable on the other side of the Jordan?” 
Not only was Moses concerned that that they might have entertained the notion of not crossing the Jordan with their brethren, Moses was chagrined that they could and would feel comfortable in staying behind. From the tone in their voice he detected that they would not have been troubled by the prospect of their brothers dying in battle, while they sat tranquilly in their homes.
By expressing his ire and outrage, Moses endeavored to instill in them the feeling that no Jew could be at peace with himself, if Jews elsewhere are in danger.
We may take this a step further. Moses was concerned that even if they would agree to go along with the other tribes and join them in battle, it would have not sufficed if it would have simply been a battle "there" as a means to procure their share of the land "here."
In other words, Moses was upset that there was a sense of "here" and "there;" that there were two different communities of Jews. True, occasionally one will discharge his legal duty to help the other – but in essence they are two separate entities..
Moses would not have even been content with them saying, "we can not rest until we join our brethren there." Moses wanted them to feel that they were all "there," that they were all part of one community - even when physically they may have been in two different locations.
How can a Jew, Moses wondered, ever feel that he or she is not organically connected to other Jews? And if it is possible not to feel that unity in times of peace, how could a Jew not be jolted out of his or her reverie in times of crisis? How can we feel in any way detached? A Jew must feel that he or she is there.
Moses' message to them is the message to every Jew today: Can we feel calm and can we be at peace and live our lives in comfort knowing that our brethren are currently fighting a war of survival in the Holy Land ?
Moses' message to them is essentially his message to us as well: No Jew can rest until all of his or her brothers and sisters anywhere in the world, particularly in Israel, are at peace.
Moreover, we should realize that, insofar as our feelings are concerned, there is no "there" and "here." We are all there spiritually and emotionally.
Obviously, the most ideal way of achieving the goal of being there is to be there with one's body and soul. Those who can translate that feeling into the physical dimension, to be there and assist in the effort of our brothers and sisters in defending the Holy Land and its inhabitants, deserve the greatest accolades for doing so. 
The rest of us, however, must find other ways of expressing genuine solidarity with them. And this takes many forms: In addition to the obvious financial and moral support we must give, we must also cement our ties with Israel spiritually by way of increased Torah study, observance of the Mitzvot (specifically, Tzedakah, Tefillin and Mezuzah, about which the Rebbe discussed brings special protection to Israel and the soldiers of  Tzahal (the IDF) in particular). This has been expressed succinctly by the prophet Isaiah: " Zion will be redeemed with mishpat (translated as the directives of the Torah) and its captives shall return with tzedakah."
And, of course, our prayers must be with them, specifically the recitation of Psalms. And of all the prayers, the most basic and comprehensive one is the plea to G‑d to bring Moshiach to usher in the final Redemption that will bring, once and for all times, true peace, at which time the sense of solidarity and unity will become natural.
Moshiach Matters
When Jacob was about to go down to Egypt, G‑d promised to eventually redeem him. The literal translation of the verse reads: "I will go down to Egypt with you and I will bring you up, also bring up." (Ex. 46:4) The repetitiveness intimates that G‑d promised Jacob that the Children of Israel would be redeemed twice. The first time was when G‑d brought us out of the exile from Egypt. The second time will be with the final redemption through Moshiach, as it says (Isaiah 11:11), "On that day G‑d will add on a second time to recover the rest of His nation." (The Midrash)

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