Numbers 30:2 – 36:13; Jeremiah 2:4-28 and 3:4
Israel is warned against seeking foreign comforts over its divine purpose, and cautioned regarding making treaties with hostile elements – lessons which still have relevance today!
Commentary by Michael Schneider,
israel today, Jerusalem:
Our weekly reading on this Shabbat is a double portion where we conclude the fourth book of the Torah, Numbers.
In chapter 32 we read of the last preparations of the people of Israel on the east side of the Jordan River before entering the Promised Land. Two tribes, Reuben and Gad, asked Moses to get as their inheritance the lands east of the Jordan.
Moses reacted angrily: It could “discourage the Israelites from going over into the land the LORD has given them.” Moses feared other tribes would likewise prefer to remain where they were rather than fight for possession of the Land, and he reminded Reuben and Gad what happened when then Ten Spies brought the discouraging report about giants 40 years earlier. The agreed upon compromise was that Rueben and Gad would leave their women, children and livestock behind in the greener pastures east of the Jordan, while “every man, armed for battle, will cross over to fight before the LORD” until the whole land was captured.
An ancient Jewish text notes that “three divine gifts were given to the world: Wisdom, valor and riches. But if they are not given by God, they won’t endure.”
Reuben and Gad performed their duty, but did so with a look to their own capital, inwardly detaching themselves from their brothers in a way that would later see an outward implementation (see 1 Chronicle 5:25).
How does this relate to the mindset of European and American Jews today? Is it not often their material riches that keep them from immigrating to Israel and assisting in the building and defense of this nation?
Those who want to immigrate to Israel but cannot, they can be helped! But he who can and is not willing, he can’t be helped. While they were forcibly held in exile, they could reject the influence of the heathen environment. Yet in the moment, when they choose voluntarily to live in exile, the assimilation started to nibble at them; intermarriage and foreign cults unhinged them from their people and faith.
The Holocaust began in Germany, where the Jews at the time were more assimilated than in any other place. Theodor Herzl’s “The Jew State” was first published in German, therefore the German Jews were the first that the idea of the Zionism was proposed to, but they rejected it. Their comfort and wealth in Germany were more important to them than returning back to the land of the forefathers.
Chapter 33 of Numbers recaps Israel’s 40-year journey through the desert, and ends with a divine mission: “You shall cross the Jordan River to the Land of Canaan,” and remove all the inhabitants and the relics of their foreign cults – “because I will give this land to you.” Israel was warned that any remnant of the godless Canaanites and their religions would be like “barbs in your eyes” and “thorns in your sides.” Israel was furthermore warned against any covenant with the Land’s former inhabitants, even compared as a ‘snare’ (Exodus 23:32-33). The reasons for this admonition continue to be clear even today.
In our reading from the prophets we see an interesting parallel: As with the Second Lebanon War last summer, and now with new war threats from Syria (in alliance with Hizballah and Iran), we read in Jeremiah chapter one: “Out of the north the evil will break forth on all the inhabitants of the land” (verse 14). Not a coincidence!
What a word of comfort the prophet Jeremiah gives in (Jeremiah 1) verse 5 of last weeks Haftara which is continued this week (Chapter 2:4-28) : “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
… in conclusion, an encouraging word to the people of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 2:2): “I remember concerning you the devotion of your youth, the love of your betrothals, your following after Me in the wilderness…” :-)which therefore is the text on the GSI Pesach greeting card >>
Rabbinical commentary by Rabbi Chaim Richman: