A Selfless Calling

The tribes of Reuven and Gad approached Moshe to ask for a different lot. Instead of crossing the Jordan into the promised land of Israel, they requested the land on the east side of the river. The land was plush and fertile, perfect for their immense livestock. Much like the spies, we’d think that Moshe’s response should include how they disobeyed Hashem, disrespected the land of Israel, and lack the necessary faith in the Divine plan. But Moshe’s main complaint was none of these: “Your brethren will enter into war (In Israel), and you want to stay here?” (32:6). Moshe did continue with parallels between their request and the spies themselves, yet never demanded that they enter Israel. Instead, he allows them to stay in the Trans-Jordan, on the simple condition that they help conquer the land of Israel with everyone else. 


Two basic question arise from this episode: Why did their materialistic concerns even factor into any request? And why did Moshe never even mention the importance of them living in Israel, for Israel’s sake, not simply as war-tactics?


Rav Eliyahu Dessler explains in his Michtav Me’Eliyahu, that their request wasn’t simply for their flock, it was for themselves. Their way of life dictated that their life was to be best-lived in the Trans-Jordan, connected, and then part of the land of Israel. Their calling was to lead a G-dly life in a business world. This was -for them- the right place to be, and live out their mission. This explains why their “materialism” was a real factor. It was part of their life’s mission. It also explains why Moshe never demanded that they be in Israel proper. They could extend their borders to include the Trans-Jordan. But there was still one concern Moshe had: Selfishness.


Of course, when we find our calling in life, based on our skill-set, interests, and environment, we should strive to fulfill what we believe Hashem wants from us. But, G-d-forbid, should that lead us to thinking that we have only ourselves -and our mission- to worry about. Moshe turned to Reuven and Gad and explained, that this mahy be your calling, but life’s not all about you. You still have to concern yourselves with others- the rest of the Jewish people, and their mission. While it’s true that a person’s mission in life can be Divinely-ordained, it’s not to the exclusion of helping others with their lives. While we all have pursuits and passions, we must retain a perspective of others. With that mentality, no matter how noble the goal, we may merit to rectify the sins of generations past, and bring back our holy Temple we once destroyed. Not only by fulfilling our own goals, but by being mindful of others’ at the same time.