Living higher…

Shabbat Kodesh Parashat Matot-Massaei

At the middle of Parshat Matot, we read this week how the tribes of Reuben and Gad (later joined by half of the tribe of Manasseh) asked for the lands east of the Jordan as their portion in the Promised Land, these being prime pastureland for their cattle. Moshe Rabeinu is initially angered by the request, but subsequently agrees on the condition that they first join, and lead, in Israel’s conquest of the lands west of the Jordan.

During the exchange – it seems that not only the tribes themselves, but even Moshe Rabeinu, is only relating to the “practicality” of staying in the “East Bank”,( If you stay on the east side, who will fight to conquer the West bank etc.) but nothing about the fact that they all waited 40 years in order to enter Eretz Yisrael with its holy features. 
Why was Moshe Rabeinu not reprimanding them for being interested only in the material side of their lives and future generations ? 

Perhaps, Because there are (at least) two ways to elevate ourselves spiritually. The one process may depend on where we are. A holy location might give us an uplift which helps us as human beings to reach higher levels. But equally, we can achieve similar holiness in our lives by sanctifying our behaviour ourselves, Without “external assistance”. – It is obviously a bigger challenge to be a lofty individual in Las Vegas than in Jerusalem, Yet it is possible. As we know from our daily experiences and temptations. 

So, back to the tribes wishing to live in the East bank. Moshe Rabeinu knew that it would be a great challenge for them, but an achievable one.
Indeed the East bank of the river Jordan was later annexed to Eretz Yisrael – on the merits of the tribes residing there. 

Best regards and Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Chaim Michael Biberfeld