The Torah portion Matos relates how the tribes of Gad and Reuven asked Moshe to grant them their portion of land, not in Eretz Yisrael proper, but on the other side of the Jordan.1 They requested this since they had many herds and the land on the other side of the Jordan was ideal for grazing.
Moshe was at first extremely displeased with their request. Only after they promised to first lead the Jews into Eretz Yisrael did Moshe agree. The verse goes on to say: “And Moshe gave to the children of Gad and Reuven, and to half the tribe of Menashe, son of Yosef, the kingdom of Sichon.”2
But how does half the tribe of Menashe get into the act? During the give-and-take between Moshe, Gad, and Reuven, not once is it mentioned that half the tribe of Menashe also wanted a portion on the other side of the Jordan!
Our Sages state that the half-tribe of Menashe did not choose the other side of the Jordan on its own, but rather that Moshe presented it to them.3
This, too, must be understood. How is it that Moshe, who originally found the request by Gad and Reuven so repulsive, should then ask half the tribe of Menashe to join the others beyond the Jordan?
Evidently, there is a major difference between Gad and Reuven and half the tribe of Menashe; for Gad and Reuven it was considered a fault, while for half the tribe of Menashe, it was considered a meritorious deed.
Wherein lies the difference?
The Torah goes on to relate that Gâ€‘d eventually showed Moshe the “entire land” of Eretz Yisrael.4 Clearly, this was not just for sightseeing; Moshe’s gaze brought with it a degree of sanctification.5 Thus the Gemara states: “All places that Gâ€‘d showed Moshe must be tithed.”6
Why was it necessary for Moshe to see the entire land, and thereby effectuate sanctification?
All the essential things relating to the Jewish people were accomplished by Moshe. Thus it was that Moshe received the entire Torah and then transmitted it.7 And Moshe is inexorably bound up with the nation’s redemption – not only from the first exile, but from the last exile as well. This is in accord with the saying of our Sages that “Moshe is both the first and the final redeemer.”8
Since the inheritance of Eretz Yisrael is a crucial aspect in the life of the Jewish people,9 it follows that this too had to be connected in some way with Moshe. Therefore, although Moshe did not actually enter the land, it was necessary that he at least sanctify it by seeing it.
With regard to the inheritance of Eretz Yisrael, we learn that in times to come, its boundaries shall be broadened. Since all crucial matters “pass through” Moshe, it follows that the broadened boundaries also had to be connected with him in some way.
This is why Moshe gave half the tribe of Menashe a portion on the other side of the Jordan, for this represents a broadening of the boundaries.
Herein lies the main difference between the inheritance of Gad and Reuven and the inheritance of Menashe: The acquisition of land on the other side of the Jordan by the tribes of Gad and Reuven came about (a) as a result of their own request; (b) as a result of monetary considerations, and (c) with the stipulation that they forgo their portion of Eretz Yisrael.
In contrast, half the tribe of Menashe (a) received its portion through Moshe; (b) retained a portion in Eretz Yisrael proper; and, most importantly, (c) this “extra-territorial” portion served as a forerunner of the broadened boundaries in times to come.
This also explains why Moshe chose the tribe of Menashe, for as related in the previous portion of Pinchas with regard to the daughters of Tzelafchad, it was that tribe that demonstrated passionate love for Eretz Yisrael. (Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXVIII, pp. 210—215.)
Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, zt’l; adapted by R’Sholom B. Wineberg. Find more Torah articles for the whole family at www.chabad.org/parshah.
- Bamidbar 32:1ff.
- Ibid., verse 33.
- Yerushalmi, Bikkurim 1:8.
- Devarim 34:1ff.
- See Tzofnas Pa’aneiach Al HaTorah (compiled) ibid. See also Likkutei Torah and Or HaTorah beginning of Torah portion Vaes’chanan.
- Bava Basra 56a.
- Avos 1:1.
- See Shmos Rabbah 2:6; Devarim Rabbah conclusion of ch. 9; Zohar, Vol. I, p. 253a; Torah Or, Mishpatim, p. 75b.
- See Mechilta, Beshallach 15:17; Tanchuma, Re’eh 8.