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   by Jacob Solomon

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Moses' final reply to the tribes of Reuben and Gad following their request to settle on the east bank of the Jordan recently conquered from Sichon and Og was:

"If the people of Gad and Reuben cross the Jordan with you - all armed for battle before G-d and the Land is conquered, you shall give them the land of Gilead as a possession." (32:29)

A careful examination of Moses' reply to the two-and-a-half tribes claiming land on the east side of the Jordan communicates the following. Those lands were to become theirs only after they had completed their military service in conquest of the rest of the Promised Land, and not until. That implies that their womenfolk and children would, in the meantime, settle the towns that were needed for their immediate accommodation. The rest of the land would stay fallow. This follows the explanation of the Ramban. Then:

The people of Gad and Reuben spoke up with: "… We shall cross over, armed, before G-d, with the land on the other side of the Jordan (Gilead) being ours". (32:32)

The Sforno observes that their response demanded more from Moses than he was offering. "The land on the other side of the Jordan being ours" meant all of the East Bank, and from that moment. They wanted that entire territory to be immediately theirs in anticipation of their soldiers fulfilling their military pledge. They did not wish to wait to take possession of their lands until their men returned after years of conquest of the main part of the Promised Land.

Moses did not demur. He proceeded to give them the land they wanted and on their terms, so as to avoid controversy and because he trusted them.

Indeed, Moses' trust was not misplaced. As many years later, Joshua congratulated them on completion of their duties: "You indeed carried out all Moses' instructions… you may now return to the lands you possess on the other side of the Jordan". (Josh. 22:2-4)

The Sforno's explanation raises the question of why Moses did not directly place the demands of those tribes before G-d as he did with two other issues, namely the position of the ritually impure bringing the Pesach offering (9:8), and the claim of daughters on their father's real estate when there are no sons (27:5). In those instances, Moses consulted with G-d, and G-d told him what to do.

In response, Moses' accepting the trust-demanding terms of Gad and Reuben without comment illustrates a fundamental principle in leadership. Both occasions where Moses consulted G-d were in situations where there was no legal precedent. He needed to know what the Law was. Here, the issue was not the law, but assessing the sincerity and integrity of other people. The leader has to use his wisdom, experience, and discretion.

This message applies to everyday life. "Trust everyone" and your business will not have a very long life. "Trust nobody" and it will be hard to build up the essential goodwill for your business to succeed. It is your job to use your wisdom, experience, and discretion of when to trust and when not to trust. When to extend credit, and when not to extend credit. And one of the purposes in life is to build up the necessary wisdom and experience, so that discretion may be used wisely.

For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at and on the material on the Haftara at .

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site:

Also by Jacob Solomon:
From the Prophets on the Haftara

Test Yourself - Questions and Answers


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