Living Torah

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, rabbinic director, United with Israel

This week’s Torah portion contains a most important lesson, namely: Make your family, and not your material wealth, the main priority!

In this week’s Torah portion, the Jewish people reached the plains of Moab. They are now just outside of the Land of Israel and preparing for their imminent invasion.

But out of the 12 tribes, there were two that decided that they would rather not enter the Land of Israel. The tribes of Gad and Reuben wanted to remain east of the Jordan River, where there was rich pasture for their cattle. And so they brought their request to Moses.

Moses’s primary problem with this issue was that it simply would not be fair if all the other tribes went out to war while the tribes of Gad and Reuben remained behind to live “the good life.” Not only would it be unjust; it would be demoralizing to the others. They had to share the military burden along with everyone else.

Gad and Reuben accepted Moses’s concern and said: “Let us build sheep pens for our livestock and towns for our children. Then all our men will go to the army and fight until the land is conquered and apportioned. Only then will we return to our homes.”

Moses’s response: “Fine. Build towns for your children and pens for your sheep. And make sure you keep your word.”

Did you notice it?

Moses Corrected the Order of Priorities

Moses reversed the order of their request, and by extension, the order of their priorities. They wanted to take care of their livestock before taking care of their children! Moses corrected their order of priorities.

I’m sure all would agree that Moses was right in chastising them. We would all agree that Gad and Reuben had it all wrong!

Unfortunately, many people think like Gad and Reuben. Many people have a warped sense of priorities. When people are so obsessed with their businesses, making money and material possessions, the family is often neglected. I’m sure we all know a few “Gadites” and “Reubenites.”

What is the result of a “Gadite” or “Reubenite” attitude?

Make Time for your Children!

As mentioned, Gad and Reuben did indeed enter the land along with the rest of the Jewish people, and they participated in all the wars. It was only after 14 years that all the wars had ended and the land was divided up among all the various tribes. Only then did Gad and Reuven return to live in Jordan.

What this means is that all men who returned from the war and had left behind young children returned to find teenagers and adults!

We are told, however, that when the men returned, they were saddened to see that their children were essentially living pagan lifestyles, just as the surrounding nations. They had been completely influenced and assimilated!

This is what happens when children are raised in an environment where making the next buck takes priority over ensuring the care and stability of the family. Do not make that mistake! Put your family first!