“Shall your brothers go to war while you stay here?” (Bamidbar/Numbers 32:6)
In this week’s Torah portion, Reuven (Reuben) and Gad ask Moshe (Moses) for permission to settle on the other side of the Jordan, rather than in the land of Canaan with the other tribes. The two tribes have accumulated much livestock and the leaders observe that the land east of the Jordan will be a good place to raise cattle. Moshe questions their priorities because it appears that they are opting out of fighting alongside the other tribes in Canaan. (It will take another 14 years until the tribes can peacefully settle in Canaan.) Reuven and Gad agree to leave their families and livestock behind and join the other tribes in battle.
What can we learn from Moshe’s challenge?
Rabbis Yisroel and Osher Anshel Jungreis write in Torah for Your Table: “We the Jewish people are one family. If any one of us is hurting, we are all hurting. The heart of each and every Jew must beat with the heart of his people…The question of Moses speaks to us…in our everyday family life as well. Can it be that you are buying jewelry while your sister can’t pay her rent?...Can it be that you are celebrating at your holiday table while your brother sits alone in his dark apartment? Can it be?...Moses’ challenge demands that we take a good look at our lives and examine to what extent we feel empathy for our families, for our people.”
As parents, we must teach our children to look out for the welfare of their siblings and for their extended family. We also must make them aware that they are part of the larger family of the Jewish people. When rockets fire over Israel, our sisters and brothers in Israel are in danger. We shed tears, pray, recite Tehillim (psalms), and do mitzvot (commandments) such as learning Torah, lighting Shabbat candles, donning tefillin (phylacteries) and giving tzedekah (charity). We find ways to support Israeli soldiers and the people of Israel in their time of need. We do not stand by idly as our brethren suffer.