Perashot Matot-Masei 5777
Perashot Matot-Masei 5777Friday, July 21, 2017
In Perashat Matot it seems like everyone is in a race against time. As the era of the desert is almost over and 'Am Yisrael are about to enter the Land of Israel, everybody feels that time is running out and that they must grab as much as they can before it will be too late. The astute businessmen of the tribe of Gad and Reuben, having caught wind of the chance for opportunity, make a contingency plan. As true businessmen they make a brilliant economic calculation. They have a lot of sheep and cattle and in the Trans-Jordan there are great pastures and lush open fields. It's a simple calculation; they want to grab this deal quickly before it ends. In order to seal this deal, they agree to leave their families and neglect their children's education so that they can fight alongside their brethren in securing the west bank of the Jordan and the rest of the Land of Israel for the other tribes. All of a sudden, the holiness of the Land of Israel and their children's education is not important to them; they are even ready to forgo the physical and spiritual security that the Land of Israel has to offer them and their posterity. All they see in front of their eyes are the potential economic gains of more plentiful fodder for their animals. The smell of cheap hay has gotten to their heads.
The Midrash on our perasha quotes the following saying by Shelomo HaMelekh, "An inheritance may be acquired hastily in the beginning, but its end will not be blessed". (Proverbs 20:21) The Midrash explains that this is referring to the tribes of Gad and Reuben and their pursuit of materialism. What happened to their society in the end? The Talmud in Makkot 9b says, "Manslaying was rife in Gilead (the territory in the Trans-Jordan)". This is the reason that the Trans-Jordanian territory, that contained the two-and-a-half tribes of Gad, Reuben and Menashe, had disproportionately as many 'Arei Miklat, "Cities of Refuge", in which the perpetrators of manslaughter could claim the right of asylum as the nine-and-a-half tribes on the west bank of the Jordan.
On the other hand, we read in this week's perasha that Moshe Rabbenu is also busy amassing wealth, spiritual wealth that is. He fulfills the missva of setting aside the aforementioned three "Cities of Refuge" in the east bank of the Jordan. What does his action tell us? First of all, he is hinting that the tribes who wanted to settle in the east bank will soon have so many killers that there will unfortunately be a need for these cities. But more importantly, Moshe Rabbenu sees an opportunity for a missva while all they see is a business venture.
Our sages ask why did he choose to fulfill this specific missva? These cities would only assume their status as "Cities of Refuge" after the west bank was conquered and the additional three cities on the other side of the Jordan were designated. Shouldn't Moshe be spending the last days of his life doing things that are necessary immediately? Our sages answer with the verse in Ecclesiastes: "Whoever loves silver will not be sated with silver". The sages say that this is referring to Moshe Rabbenu who was looking for a missva that would be an investment for generations to come. Again he is hinting to the tribes of Gad and Reuben to look for the real long term investment, not for the immediate yield. Don't run after the grasslands and neglect your children. The real long term spiritual asset is your children's education, the Torah that you study and the missvot you fulfill.
Let us heed Moshe Rabbenu's advice. Let us set our priorities straight and invest in those investments that will give us high yields in the long term, Torah and missvot and a proper Jewish education for our children.
May 31 2020
Sivan 8 5780