At the end of this week’s parsha the Torah relates how Moshe split up eretz Yisroel amongst the shevatim. The pasukim start off telling us that Moshe gave a certain amount to bnei Reuven and bnei Gad, and then gave a significantly larger portion to chatzi shevet Menashe. The pasuk then goes back and discusses what Moshe gave to bnei Reuven and bnei Gad. There are three questions that come to mind when reading through these pasukim. Firstly, why does the pasuk “squeeze in” which portions were given to chatzi shevet Menashe while relating what Moshe gave to bnei Reuven and bnei Gad? Secondly, we find that Moshe made a condition with bnei Gad and bnei Reuven that they may only cross back over the yarden after they fight together with the rest of klal Yisroel to enter into eretz Yisroel. Why were there no conditions made with chatzi shevet Menashe? And lastly, as we mentioned above, chatzi shevet Menashe seemed to have received a significantly larger portion than bnei Gad and bnei Reuven. How did they merit such a large parcel of land?
The Netziv answers that Moshe looked across the yarden, where bnei Gad and bnei Reuven wanted to dwell, and realized that the Torah there was very weak. They were setting up homes and a community across the yarden, but they were neglecting Torah study. He understood that they wouldn’t last there without Torah. It was known that shevet Menashe produced eminent Torah scholars; tremendous talmidei chachamim. Moshe wanted to ensure the spiritual success of this community so he convinced chatzi shevet Menashe to stay behind, be ehrlich and help revitalize this new community on the other side of the yarden. However, they didn’t want to move there. Why should they? So Moshe had to convince them to move there by offering them a larger portion of land. He placed them right in the middle of the areas of bnei Reuven and bnei Gad because it was this shevet, chatzi shevet Menashe, which strengthened and molded the spiritual aspect of this new community.
There’s a Yerushalmi in Bikurim that says one may not bring Bikurim from across the yarden. The two reasons given are: 1) Because the pasuk says it must be from a land where ‘milk and honey flow’ (i.e. eretz Yisroel) and this is not considered eretz Yisroel; 2) because the pasuk says ‘from the land that I have given to you,’ and we deduce from here that it excludes the, ‘land that you took’. What’s the difference between these two reasons?
The answer is chatzi shevet Menashe! They didn’t take the land; they never took it. They were convinced to accept it. Based on the second reason given, they could very well bring Bikurim.
Moshe knew that bnei Gad and bnei Reuven were settling the land anew and it wouldn’t have been possible to survive there without them being shown how to guide and lead their lives.
In parshas Vayetzei when the Torah how mentions Yaakov left his hometown, Rashi asks why the Torah feels the importance of mentioning this. He answers that when a tzaddik leaves town he makes an impact on the town and on the people. Reb Shmuel Berenbaum Zt”l asked what about Avraham and Yitzchok? They were also our forefathers and tremendous tzaddikim and yet when they left their hometowns there was no mention of this? Shouldn’t the Torah have said it by them as well? The Rosh Hayeshiva zt’l answered that Avraham represented chessed and Yitzchok represented gevurah while Yaakov represented ‘ish tam yoshev ohalim’! He sat in his tent and learned Torah. One may think that this effect is minimal because he is in his tent and is not seen. Same thing goes for all Torah scholars: All they do all day is sit inside and learn Torah and are not actively involved with the community or in chessed. What type of impact can they have on a town? Says Rav Shmuel it’s these people that make an impact and it’s these people that hold up the town! It needs to be mentioned by Yaakov specifically because he represents this idea of Torah scholars and their importance to the community.
The gemara in Shabbos says that Yerushalayim was only destroyed due to the talmidei chochomim who were being disgraced. What about all the other reasons we’ve learnt, such as sinas chinum and the like?
The answer is when you have talmidei chochomim living amongst you, they can ensure that your city stays alive; they’re like a shield which protects your city. But once they’re disgraced and belittled, they lose their shield and their ability to protect. One of the ways, we can start to rebuild the Bais Hamikdash is by appreciating talmidei chochomim and realizing the positive effects and the benefits we all have from them in our midst.
B’ezras Hashem, if we all work on ourselves, and attempt to be mesaken the various aspects and reasons for the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash, we will then help in rebuilding it and we will once again be zoche to turn this upcoming day of aveilus into a day of simcha.