At River Jordan
Reuben and Gad ask Moses
Please don’t make us cross
Chapter 32 of Numbers tells an interesting story. When the Israelites arrive at the banks of the Jordan River, about to cross in to the Promised Land, the tribes of Reuven and Gad come of Moses, Eleazar the priest. They don’t want to cross – the land on the east of the Jordan would be a better place for them to raise their cattle.
Moses isn’t happy, but after hearing their explanation – and being assured they will fight with the other tribes until the land is conquered – he agrees.
An article on My Jewish Learning connects this incident to the famous verse from Pirke Avot (1:14) attributed to Rabbi Hillel: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? And, if not now, when?”
The tribes who are reluctant to cross are acting for themselves. Moses insists they act not only for themselves, but for the entire community. Because the time is now, when there is a land – promised by God – that they must conquer.
With this weeks double portion of Matot/Mas’ei we complete the book of Numbers. As is traditional when we finish reading a Book of Torah, we say Chazak, chazak, v’nitchazeik. May we all be strong, and gather strength from one another.
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