“We Need Our Space”

by | Jul 17, 2015 | 0 comments

“We love Torah and we love G-d, but we can’t live together with the rest of the Jewish people. We are willing to support you, teach you, do business with you; we’ll even fight in your wars! But we need our own space.” These were the words of the leaders of Gad and Reuvein. “We will remain on this side of the Jordan and not enter Eretz Yisroel.”

Throughout history there has always been a voice like this in the Jewish community. The people are too rich, too machmir, too lenient, too Jewish, too gentile – like… we love you, we wish you well, we bless you — but we can’t live with you.

There has always been a voice like this within our own hearts. We need our own space. Working with other people seems to complicate matters.

By the time the Jewish people in the desert were up to Matos-Masai, Moshe had already had his share of difficult moments and disappointments with Klal Yisroel. He had watched his people betray G-d as they built the Golden Calf. He had listened to them audaciously complain against G-d when they didn’t like the taste of the Manna. He had dealt with a rebellion against his leadership and he had fought against the spies for the honor of the land of Israel. Despite the historical implications of the Jewish behavior, our Rebbe Moshe somehow always understood the people and where possible defended them. Yet, when the leaders of two of the tribes of Israel, Gad and Reuven, voiced a request. “Can we please stay on this side of the Jordan where there will be plenty of room for us?” Moshe lost his cool. According to one Medrash he scolded them for three days straight. He threatened them and nearly cursed them. Why did this request set off something in Moshe beyond any response that we have ever seen?

The answer is that somehow, until this point in the history of the new Jewish people, even when we sinned we did so as a people. We were a family. We had ups and we had downs, but it all took place within the framework of Klal Yisroel. Now, for the first time in history, a group came to Moshe and said, “We want out”. They had no problem with G-d or with Torah and had nothing personal with Moshe. They had no interest in mutinying or revolting. They just didn’t want to be part of the Jewish people. They just wanted to start their own community with like minded relatives and be left alone. Moshe saw before him the first major division in Israel. He listened to the plans for the first breakaway minyan. Moshe was listening to the Churban Beis HaMikdash.

We are all entitled to our own space in Judaism. I’m all for it. But there is a line. There is a Jordan River. If you are on the other side of the river, then you’ve gone too far.

If we would had somehow remained one community two thousand years ago, Jerusalem and the Bais HaMikdash would have never been destroyed. If we can again be one community today, Jerusalem will again be one, and be ours forever.

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Rabbi Yaacov Haber has been a leading force in Jewish community and Jewish education for over forty years. He lived and taught in the United States, Australia and in Israel. He is presently the Rav of Kehillas Shivtei Yeshurun, a vibrant community in the center of Ramat Bet Shemesh, Israel, and serves as the Rabbinic guide to many of its wonderful organisations.


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