Keep away from controversy like from fire during these days


Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto’s talks are known throughout the Jewish world. They combine chassidic teachings and philosophy, along with tips for a better life. We have collected pearls from his teachings that are relevant to our daily lives. This week we read the Torah section of Matot - Masai on Shabbat.

"If we have found favor in your eyes, let this land be given to your servants as an inheritance. Do not make us cross the Jordan"

In this week's Torah section of Matot - Masai, the holy Torah tells us that the tribe of Reuben, the tribe of Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh asked Moses to let them remain outside the borders of the Land of Israel. "If we find favor in your eyes, let this land be given to your servants as an inheritance. Do not make us cross the Jordan." The Torah adds that they had massive numbers of livestock: "and the children of Reuben and the children of God had an immense amount of cattle."

Our holy rabbis, headed by Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Peshischa, focuses on the language that the Torah specifically used: "an immense amount of cattle." The words mikneh rav can also be understood to mean kinyan rav - “acquiring a teacher - referring to Moses. They felt a deep connection and were fiercely devoted to their teacher Moses and his quality of humility. They therefore sought to remain outside the Land of Israel, close to the place where Moses was buried.

In spite of this, Moses was angry with them. He told them: "Your brothers will go to war and you will dwell here?" Your brothers will go to conquer the Land of Israel and you will remain abroad? This is unthinkable! The tribes of Reuben and Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh then replied to Moses: We will receive our share outside the borders of Israel only after we conquer the land.

Thus, the tribes of Reuven and Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh asked to receive their inheritance even before the other tribes entered the Land of Israel and even before the wars were waged to conquer it. Moses insisted that first they go to war and conquer the land, and only after that will the land will be divided and they will receive their share.

We need to understand: why did they ask for their share of the land before going to war? And why did Moses insist that they would receive their share only after taking part in the war?

We can explain it according to the Rambam (Laws of Kings and Wars 7:15): "Whoever fights with his entire heart, without fear, with the intention of sanctifying God's name alone, can be assured that no harm will find him, nor will bad overtake him. He will be granted a proper family in Israel and gather merit for himself and his children forever. He will also merit eternal life in the world to come.” A person who goes to war should fearlessly be prepared to risk his life. If he thinks only of God’s honor, no harm and nothing bad will happen to him, he will definitely be on top and will win and merit great things.

However, it is very difficult to do an act entirely for the sake of heaven without any personal or private motivation. As soon as a person incorporates a motivation of a personal pleasure or bias when doing a commandment - he spoils the commandment and ruins it.

The tribes of Reuben and Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh first wanted to receive their inheritance and only then fight for the Land of Israel, because they shared Moses’s humility. They believed that if they first fought for the land and only then received their inheritance, it would cause them to fight out of a personal bias to finally get their land. Their combat would not be holy and for heaven's sake. To prevent this from happening, they preferred to first receive their share and only then fight.

But Moses refused and told them that they should receive their share only after fighting with everyone else. Why is that? We can learn this from the spies. They were righteous and exalted individuals, yet when they went to spy on the Land of Israel, they brought an evil report of the land and spoiled everything. A person cannot trust himself, as our Sages say (Avot 2:4) “Do not trust yourself until the day you die.” So Moses said to them: Now you are righteous, but maybe tomorrow your hearts will turn away and you will spoil everything. The inheritance you are asking for does not belong to you yet. First, fight and conquer the land and only after that you will receive your inheritance.

Our holy books state that the war for the Land of Israel involved a special sanctity. Each area of the Land of Israel corresponded to a Jewish law, verse or section of the Holy Torah. And when the tribes fought and conquered the land, they did so according to the Holy Torah. One area corresponded to the Book of Genesis, a second area to the Book of Exodus, and so on. The whole land of Israel was divided according to Torah sections and according to the Holy Torah.

Moses related to the conquest of the Land of Israel like the Giving of the Torah. Just as all the Israelites stood around Mount Sinai during the Giving of the Torah and there wasn’t even one Jewish soul that wasn’t present when the Torah was given, so it was with the conquest of the Land of Israel. 

All the Jews in the world had to participate in this war. Every Jew has a letter and a root in the Land of Israel, and if one Jew wouldn’t participate in the war, then one part of the Land of Israel would be missing. The tribes of Reuben and Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh had to be partners in the war, so that parts of the Land of Israel would not be lacking.

Moses did not accept their view that they wanted to receive their inheritance before the war out of concern that they would mix their personal bias in the holy cause. He demanded that they fight like everyone else, while subduing their motivations to conquer the land in holiness and purity together with all the other tribes.

In these days, the Three Weeks, each and every one should strengthen himself in the Holy Torah, and build his personal part in Torah. Everyone has their own portion in the Torah and through it, we connect to the Land of Yisrael.

The way to fight and conquer the Land of Israel is together, in complete unity. This is especially so in these days when a person has to seriously search out his actions, above all in matters between man and his fellow man. He has to increase the unconditional love he feels in his heart for others, because the Temple was destroyed because of unconditional hatred, which is a very grave and terrible thing.

In these days, a person should beware of controversy and hatred. Whoever gets involved with them, it will consume his family, his livelihood and everything he has in the end.

Many people do things in the name of the Torah, the commandments and good deeds, and righteousness - but in the end they create discord and inflame hatred among Jews. They insist that they are doing it to fulfill the Torah, but the truth is that their actions are destructive and based on personal biases. They end up bringing great devastation upon themselves, their families and relatives.

May God strengthen us in unity and unconditional love for each other, and may we soon see our righteous Moshiach and the building of the Third Temple.

(Published in the popular Bakehila magazine)

This article was written in cooperation with Shuva Israel