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Supporting Israel
by Rabbi Heschel Greenberg
The Jewish nation is poised to enter the Promised Land after so many obstacles and delays. And now a new monkey-wrench is thrown into the mix. The two tribes of Reuven and Gad want to stay behind and receive their portion of the land on the east side of the Jordan River.

Moses is very upset and rebukes them for appropriating the errant ways of their fathers who refused to enter the Promised Land. It seemed that the new generation had not learned a lesson from the past.

The two tribes respond that they never intended to remain behind while their brethren would be fighting the battles of conquest. Rather, they were prepared to go into the Promised Land and fight alongside the other tribes. Only after the land would be successfully conquered and settled would they return to the east bank of the Jordan and receive their share of the land there.

Moses then ratifies their proposal in the following manner:

“If you do this thing, if you arm yourselves for battle before G-d, and your army crosses the Jordan before G-d—then afterwards you may return. You will be free to G-d and Israel, and this land will become your inheritance before G-d.”

What was the reasoning of these two tribes for wanting to settle on the other bank of the Jordan? Perhaps it reflected their desire to take the area that is outside of Israel proper and make that an extension of Israel. They were not content with G-d’s presence revealed in the Land of Israel; they wanted to extend it beyond its borders. Their goal was to ultimately enable G-d’s presence to extend even to the farthest reaches of the world.

Initially, Moses was not happy with their proposal. Moses was concerned that they were trying to evade participating in the conquest. Perhaps, Moses thought, these two tribes believed that one need not be connected to the paradoxical concept of a Holy Land; a land that synthesizes the idea of detachment from the physical land (the definition of “holy”) within the framework of a physical land.

In truth, these two tribes were passionate about Israel. They were even interested in extending the concept of transforming the “land” into “Israel” to the land that was not Israel proper.

The lesson for us in our own mission is to prepare the world for the Messianic Age when, according to our Sages, the holiness of Israel will spread to the entire world. This occurs when we draw upon the ideal of the Holiness of Israel and extend it to every part of the world.

G-d offers us success in our mission to make Israel here when we realize that we must give unconditional support to our brethren in the Land of Israel who ensure the physical and spiritual integrity of Israel. Doing so expresses our solidarity with the Land of Israel and our brothers and sisters who reside there.
Moreover, supporting the integrity of Israel empowers us to transform our own turf into Israel. This, then, becomes the force that propels us into the final Redemption at which time the entire world will experience the holiness of Israel, even as the sanctity of Jerusalem will spread to the entire Israel, and the Beis HaMikdash will spread to the entire Jerusalem. All of existence will be elevated to a higher level of spiritual sensitivity and awareness.


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