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By Rabbi Dovid Siegel | Series: | Level:

“Remember the principle which Moshe, the servant of Hashem commanded you saying, ‘Hashem your L-rd will settle you and give you this land.'” These words refer to Moshe Rabbeinu’s promise to the tribes of Reuven, Gad and Menashe to inherit their portion on the east side of the Jordan River. Once again we note that Moshe is referred to with the accompanying title, “servant of Hashem”.

This reference may be understood by examining the context of Moshe’s promise to these select tribes. Based on the insightful words of Nachmanides (see commentary to Bamidbar 32:29) Moshe Rabbeinu made a double commitment to the tribes. First, to provide individual cities east of the Jordan to facilitate temporary housing for the tribes and their cattle. These specific areas were immediately captured by the tribes of Reuven and Gad and settled by their families. Quite obviously, this commitment never presented concern because the families immediately took possession of these areas and settled them. However, a second commitment was made which potentially presented serious concern. Moshe obligated the tribes to take a lead position in the war of conquest. And if they did, upon the safe return of the Jewish nation, the extensive areas of Golan and Gilad would belong to the three tribes. This pending commitment was quite concerning because, as of yet, these areas had not been claimed. Once Moshe Rabbeinu passed away, what guarantee existed for his promise tobe respected? After all, it was only Moshe who made the promise and, seemingly, no one else was bound to it!

In response to this, Yehoshua told the tribes that Moshe “the servant of Hashem” made this commitment. It was unfathomable that Moshe, Hashem’s faithful servant, would do anything of consequence without prior consultation with Hashem. In fact, we find Chazal telling us that Ahron HaKohen made this argument on behalf of Moshe. When a prosecuting angel was sent by Hashem to smite the Jews, Ahron was sent by Moshe to interfere on their behalf. When confronted by the angel, Ahron argued that if Moshe gave the instruction, it must be the will of Hashem for this interference to transpire. (see Rashi to Bamidbar 17:13)

Yehoshua therefore reminded the tribes that it was Moshe, the faithful servant of Hashem, who made this promise. This meant, in effect, that it was Hashem’s will for all the land east of the Jordan to belong to them. Once they fulfilled their condition, this land would definitely be theirs without ever being contested. With this subtle reference, Yehoshua encouraged the tribes to uphold their side of the commitment and faithfully lead the Jewish people to victory.

“Your wives, children and cattle shall stay in the land across the Jordan which Moshe gave you. And all of your warriors shall go armed in the front lines and help their brothers.” This passage is basically an exact repetition of the one in D’vorim, with one exception. Throughout the Torah’s account they were told to be “chalutzim”, ready to war, rather than, “chamushim”, armed. This slight change reveals an important dimension in the war of conquest.

The hidden message can be understood through the following insight. We have learned earlier that Yehoshua prepared the Jewish people for their dramatic entry into Israel. Yehoshua said, “Because in three days you will cross this Jordan.” (1:11) This statement reveals Yehoshua’s inner sense of a major miracle. In fact, elsewhere Yehoshua refers to this crossing and says, “Because tomorrow Hashem will perform miracles in your midst.” (3:5) Radak (ad loc.) explains that although nothing had been told to Yehoshua he realized that a major miracle was soon to occur. The Jordan was overflowing at its banks and nothing short of a miracle would facilitate the Jewish people’s crossing.

The results of this miracle are cited later where it says, “And when the Canaanite kings heard of the crossing of the Jordan their hearts melted and no spirit remained within them.” (5:1) Understandably, fighting a war under such conditions didn’t require more than a fearful appearance in the land. Although Moshe’s actual condition with the tribes called for their readiness to attack, Yehoshua understood that this would not be necessary. With Hashem fighting for them, the slightest notion of war would force the enemy to surrender.

We now understand Yehoshua’s deviation from Moshe’s initial charge. Yehoshua, now sensing the upcoming miracle at the Jordan, realized that readiness to war was not necessary and the mere appearance of the tribes armed and equipped would suffice.

“Until Hashem will bring rest to your brethren and they will also inherit the land which Hashem is giving them. Then you shall return to yourinheritance and inherit that which Moshe, the servant of Hashem gave you east of the Jordan.”

This passage describes in detail the second half of Moshe’s commitment, to grant the tribes inheritance east of the Jordan. However, the particular wording of this passage is quite perplexing. The Scriptures speak of Moshe, rather than Hashem, giving the inheritance to the tribes. In addition to the conceptual difficulty of this, there seems to be an open contradiction from an earlier passage. Yehoshua initially said, “Hashem is bringing you rest and He will give you this land.” (1:13) This passage indicates that Hashem is giving the land and not Moshe. In addition, Yehoshua spoke of this inheritance in future tense, Hashem “will give” them the land rather than past tense, Moshe “gave” the land.

In resolution of these difficulties, we refer, once again, to the insightful words of Nachmanides in Sefer Bamidbar. (see commentary to Bamidbar 32:33) In Parshas Matos (ad loc.) the Torah states that Moshe Rabbeinu apportioned to the three tribes the collective area of the Sichon and Og kingdoms. Nachmanides notes; however, that in our sefer we find these lands further divided into individual segments. As is evidenced by the Scriptures, Moshe Rabbeinu actually gave each of the tribes his respective portion. Although Yehoshua arranged for the inheritance of the others, these three tribes received their designated portions from Moshe. However, as we note, this inheritance, both collective and individual, was subject to the fulfillment of their commitment.

We now return to our passages with the following interpretation. It was Hashem, of course, who was giving the land to the tribes. However, in a practical sense, Moshe already sectioned off their individual portions of inheritance. Yehoshua therefore told the three tribes that after the Jewish people inherit their respective portions, the tribes will be entitled to claim theirs. In effect, they had already inherited their portionsthrough Moshe’s earlier efforts, but were not entitled to claim them untilfulfilling their commitment.

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