Shabbat Matot & Massei

Candles - July 13th @ 8:07 pm
Havdalah - July 14th @ 9:01 pm

This double Sedra starts off with the final battle against Midian and the need to purify cooking and eating untensils that had been used for idolatry. And then deals with some specifics of how the Land of Israel would be divided up amongst the tribes.

The huge challenge Moses faced was the request of two and a half tribes to stay on the East bank of the Jordan. Areas that came to be known as Gilead. What we now call the Golan and Transjordania. The tribes of Reuben, Gad and part of Menashe had huge flocks and herds. The East Bank plains were perfect for them. Their livelihood depended on it. Yet Moses feared that the split would have negative consequences.

The problem was political and psychological. All the Israelites combined to conquer the lands Bashan and the Emorites. If two and a half tribes stayed there on the East Bank that would leave the rest to conquer the West Bank of the Jordan on their own. Moses was caught in a dilemma that is very modern. Do you allow for individual choice? For the interests of some, if this conflicts with the needs of the whole? The individual or society? And how important a part does one’s livelihood play in one’s decision making?

We need to try to reconcile all of these factors. And that was the decision that Moses took. He allowed the two and a half tribes to stay and live on the East bank but only on condition that they would help the other tribes conquer the West Bank too.

Even so, historically he was right to worry that living away from the main body of the people would in due course lead to assimilation, and the disappearance of those tribes.

Hodesh Tov.