Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Matot - 5774

My friends,

This week's Parasha is called Matot - tribes. The Children of Israel are about to enter the Promised Land. Just before they were to cross the Jordan River, they were told that, once the land is conquered, it would be divided by lottery and distributed based on the number of people in each tribe.

The tribes of Reuven, Gad and half of Manasseh, came up to Moses and to the elders and asked if they could remain on the east side of the Jordan, because they had large herds of sheep, and the lands of Jazer and Gilead on the east side of the Jordan were very fertile. They were willing to give up their share in the Promised Land for the opportunity to settle on this side of the Jordan.

Moses was very angry and admonished them for the trouble they would cause. He compared them to the generation of the spies who did not want to go to Israel and were, therefore, punished to wander 40 years in the wilderness. The main point Moses made was: "Are your brothers to go to war while you stay here?"

They then explained that they were willing to go with the other tribes to the Promised Land and they would fight together with their brothers. Once the land had been conquered they would return to the east bank of the Jordan. This was accepted and, indeed, that's what they did.

I would like to make two points:

(1) These two tribes were willing to break away from their people for the sake of materialistic benefits. They gave up the idea of being part of B'nai Yisrael - the Children of Israel - in the Promised Land, just so that they can take care of their large herds. We know what happened to them. These Jewish settlements on the east side of the Jordan did not last. Thru assimilation and wars with neighboring nations they were the first tribes to disappear as it happened many years later to the Ten Lost Tribes.

(2)The words of Moses ring loud and clear to us today as we see what is happening to our people in Israel. "Are your brothers to go to war while you stay here?" It behooves us, we the Jews of America, to do all we can to help Israel during this terrible time. With our words and our resources we need to stand with Israel. If you have not done so yet, call your Federation and ask what you can do to show your support.

"Are your brothers to go to war while you stay here?"

May Shalom come to Israel and the world.

Shabbat Shalom,