We have arrived at the concluding chapters of the book of Numbers, and the children of Israel have arrived at the conclusion of their forty year sojourn in the wilderness. Having soundly vanquished their enemies that tried to deny them access to the land of Canaan, the land promised them by
"Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, and Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo, and Beon, the land that the L-rd struck down before the congregation of Israel is a land for livestock, and your servants have livestock." (Numbers 32:3) The land they refer to lies east of the Jordan River. It is good land, vacant, and certainly of great strategic value for insuring the security of the land of Israel, west of the Jordan, once the Israelites have conquered and settled it. The request of Reuven and Gad to stay behind and settle this land, was, by many standards, reasonable, perhaps even inspired.
Yet Moses is beside himself with anger. He accuses them of breaking ranks with their brethren, who will yet have to fight for their share of the land of Israel. He accuses them of being guilty of the same sin that their fathers, the spies, had committed, when they turned their back on
"We will build sheepfolds for our livestock here and cities for our children. We will then arm ourselves quickly [and go] before the children of Israel until we have brought them to their place. Our children will reside in the fortified cities on account of the inhabitants of the land. We shall not return to our homes until each of the children of Israel has taken possession of his inheritance." (ibid 16-19)
Although Moses accepts this compromise, their words betray them, revealing a tragic inversion of priorities, an error in their understanding of themselves, Torah, and the eternal bond which has been forged between themselves,
How ironic that when the spies protested that the land of Canaan would be unsafe for their young children,
Tune in to the week's TEMPLE TALK as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven discuss the concluding chapters of the Book of Numbers, parashot Matot-Masei: the 42 journeys across the desert sands, the journey of our lives. These three weeks of heightened Temple consciousness: an opportunity to "pursue