Vertlach: Parshas Matos


At the end of this week’s parsha the Torah relates how Moshe was going to divide eretz Cana’an amongst the shevatim. The pasukim begin by stating that Moshe gave a portion to bnei Reuven and bnei Gad, and then gave a significantly larger portion to chatzi shevet Menashe. Thepasuk then goes back and discusses what Moshe gave to bnei Reuven and bnei Gad. There are three questions that come to mind when reading these pasukim. Firstly, why does the pasuk “squeeze in” which portions were given to chatzi shevet Menashe while relating whatMoshe 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 conquer eretz Cana’an Why were there no conditions made with chatzi shevet Menashe? Lastly, why did chatzi shevet Menashe receive 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 at the piece of land where bnei Gad and bnei Reuven had requested as their inheritance and realized that the Torah there would be very weak. They were setting up homes and a community across the Yarden, but they would be neglectingTorah study. He understood that they couldn’t last there without Torah. It was known that shevet Menashe produced eminent Torah scholars; tremendous talmidei chachamimMoshe wanted to ensure the spiritual success of this community, so he convinced chatzi shevet Menashe to stay behind, and help start up this new community on the other side of the Yarden. However, they didn’t want to move there. So Moshe had to influence them to move there by offering them a large portion of land. He placed them right in the middle of the areas of bnei Reuven andbnei Gad because it was this shevetchatzi 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 thepasuk says it must be from a land where ‘milk and honey flows’ (i.e. eretz Yisroel) and this is not considered eretz Yisroel; 2) because thepasuk 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, it was given to them. They were convinced to accept it. Based on the second reason given, they could very well bring Bikurim.

The gemarah in Shabbos says that Yerushalayim was only destroyed due to the lack of proper respect given to talmidei chachomim. What about the other reasons we’ve learnt, such as sinas chinum?

The answer is when you live amongst talmidei chochomim, they ensure that your city stays alive; they’re a shield which protects the city. But once they’re disgraced and belittled, they lose their shield and their ability to defend. One of the ways we can start to rebuild the BaisHamikdash is by appreciating talmidei chachomim and realizing the positive effects and the benefits we all have from them in our midst.

There was a Russian yid that would go to a daf yomi shiur every night. Week in week out he came every shiur, without fail, and within one minute he was out cold. He slept throughout the whole shiur.

One night the magid shiur walks over to him and asks, why do you even bother to come to the shiur? Every night for the last three years I watch you come, take your seat and fall asleep. I understand it’s tough, but why bother attending?

This yid answered him as follows.  When I was a young boy I was sitting around with some friends and we were speaking against the Government and the KGB. All of my friends were coming up with ideas of how they can sabotage them and how they will try to take over. One day, the KGB stormed in and arrested everyone in the room, myself included. It eventually came the day when we all had to appear in court. The Judge would read out loud your name, what you were guilty of committing and the verdict with the punishments. By every one of my friends they did just that; but at my name, all the Judge said was my name and Siberia. I immediately stood up and protested. I said to the judge ‘you haven’t announced what I’m guilty of-all you said was that I’m going to Siberia! I haven’t said a bad word about the government in that room! The judge looked at me and answered: “az du zitz mit zey, dist du mit zey-if u sit with them you’re with them!

True, I’m not listening to you; but I’m sitting with you and I want to be treated like you and be part of your chabura. I hope that by me sitting here every single night I can one day be able to have the strength to stay up and be able to grasp the Torah. I hope Hashem treats me as if I’m part of this chabura.

It’s not enough to just to ‘have’ talmidei Chachamim around but to be around them and to be a part of them is something special; it’s something we must all strive for. Hopefully, in this merit we can be treated like them by the Ribono Shel Olam who in return can grant us our ultimate redemption: the coming of Moshiach.



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