In Parshas Matos, the tribes of Gad and Reuvein approach Moshe and request that their inheritance in the Holy Land be apportioned from the lands of Sichon and Og, in Trans Jordan. Their abundance of cattle and sheep necessitated that they seek land conducive to grazing.
Moshe agrees. He only objects to their implications that they will not join the rest of Klal Yisrael in conquering Eretz Yisrael. Their absence, Moshe knew, would dramatically discourage the other tribes and result in a repetition of the sin of the spies, who, forty years earlier, discouraged Bnai Yisrael from entering the Promised Land.
But once Bnai Gad and Bnai Reuvein commit themselves to be vanguards, leading the other tribes in battle, Moshe wholeheartedly grants their request and gives them possession of their desired property.
Without a doubt, Moshe did not contest to their proposal without first receiving the approval of Hashem. Indeed, the land of Trans Jordan was not meant to lie fallow.
Centuries earlier, our patriarch, Yaakov, remained apart from his family on the other side of the river and was confronted by the angel of Esav. Why was he there? The Talmud explains that he returned to retrieve some small jars he had forgotten.
Why would these insignificant jars impel Yaakov to jeopardize his safety and return alone for them? What possible value could these containers have possessed that justified his abandoning his family, even for a few moments, to get them back?
Rav Eliyahu Dessler Z"tl explains that every trait and talent, every natural affinity and propensity that one has is but a tool presented by Hashem for one's worldly mission. Earthly possessions are made available to man as instruments for Divine Service. They enable us to fulfill the purpose for which we are created.
The tribes of Gad and Reuvein recognized that their herds and flock were entrusted to them by Hashem, and it was necessary for them to sacrifice their portion in the Land of Israel and take up residence in Trans Jordan in order that the animals be well cared for.
In doing so, they followed the path of Yaakov Avinu, who understood that even worthless jars have value if they are viewed as a means to Heavenly service.
Of the many challenges that face the Jewish people, one of the greatest is the material affluence available to us.
For centuries, Jew remained faithful to Torah principles despite poverty and hardships. Today, however, we are challenged to do just the opposite- to discover the beauty and sanctity of authentic Torah Judaism despite wealth and comfort.
The many opportunities that are now available to Jews and Jewish communities are tools for fulfilling our Heavenly mission, to love and serve Hashem with loyalty and sincerity.
Rabbi Avigdor Slatus
Rabbi Slatus is Rabbi of Congregation Bnai Brith Jacob, Savannah, Georgia.
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