Our Torah reading this Shabbat includes a narration of the future allocation of different geographical locations in Israel for each of the twelve respective tribes of Israel. However, two of the tribes, Reuven and Ephraim, approach Moses with an unusual and somewhat cheeky request. The heads of these two tribes ask permission from Moses to reside and settle outside Israel, east of the River Jordan. Moses expresses his dismay and outrage, by rhetorically posing the following question to the tribes of Reuven and Ephraim: “Your brothers will engage in warfare to reclaim the land of Israel, and you will reside here?” (Numbers 32:6)
In response to this rebuke, the tribes of Reuven and Ephraim assure Moses that they will play an active and leading role in securing the land of Israel for the Jewish people. Consequently, Moses is appeased by this statement, and conveys to the tribes that should they fulfill their pledge to take a meaningful and important role in holding the land, then they will indeed be absolved of their spiritual and moral debt to their brethren in the land of Israel.
In the Torah, we have a rabbinic principle called “Ma’ase’e avoth Siman le banim”, which means – “That which occurred to our ancestors way back when in antiquity, is but an omen for events that will re-occur thousands of years thereafter to future generations.”
No doubt, the passage mentioned above is a clear case in point of this principle. It talks about us, the Jews who live in comfort and safety thousands of miles away from Israel. Like the tribes of Reuven and Ephraim, we reside abroad also due to economic incentives (the tribes explain to Moses that the land is more fertile outside Israel). Nevertheless, just like the tribes of antiquity who resided outside the boundaries of the promised land, we also have a profound moral and spiritual debt to the Jews of Israel. We must do our part in the struggle to fortify Israel and protect Israel in its battle for survival in a hostile and at times politically barbaric region.
We must continue to support Israel financially, visit the land, and send our children there so that they develop their own love and attachment to the land and its people. We must advocate for Israel, and lobby for political leaders who support Israel.
Should we do all this, then we will merit that which Moses conveyed to the tribes residing outside Israel millennia ago, namely: “You will be cleansed and cleared in terms of your obligations to G-d and his people Israel.” (Numbers 32:22)