Matot: What is Right and Just

Your brethren go to war and you sit here?

Aloh Naaleh,

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aliyah-r.jpg
Arutz 7
Moshe Rabbeinu, upon hearing the request of the tribes of Gad and Reuven - "Bring us not over the Jordan" (Bamidbar 32:5) - responded by appealing both to their basic sense of justice and to their religious responsibility:

"And Moshe said unto the children of Gad and to the children of Reuven: Shall your brethren go to the war, and
The Torah obligation to participate in a war of Jewish national self-defense is based on a natural sense of what is right.
shall you sit here? And wherefore will you turn away the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the land which HaShem has given them?" (Bamidbar 32:6-7)

The Malbim explains that the question, "Shall your brethren go to the war, and shall you sit here?" was not based on a commandment that the Jewish People had received, but rather on what is "right and just." According to the Malbim, Moshe asks: "Is it right and just that your brothers go to the war and you sit here in peace and tranquility? Even if the tribes were to answer that G-d does not need their assistance because it is He who smites the land of the enemies and who fights for Israel, still 'your brothers go to war' - it is they who will have to stand guard and bear the burden of going to war while you sit by tranquilly, not participating in your brothers' burden."

Only in the second verse does Moshe point out that the request of the tribes not to cross the Jordan might weaken the resolve of the rest of the Nation to conquer the Land that HaShem has given them - a more "religious" argument.

The Rambam writes that there are three wars which the Jewish People are commanded to fight: against the nations of Canaan, against Amalek, and to deliver Israel from foreign aggression (Hilkhot Melachim ch. 5). He quotes the Torah to support his definition in the first two instances, but brings no verse for third. The reason for this is that the Torah obligation to participate in a war of Jewish national self-defense is based on a natural sense of what is right and just and not on any specific verse.

As today Israel is faced with existential threats from near and from far, we are confident that HaShem will fight for Israel and defeat Israel's enemies. But, as the Malbim stressed, that faith does not lessen the poignancy of Moshe's call to those who would not cross over the Jordan to assist their brothers: "Shall your brethren go to the war, and shall you sit here?"
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Rabbi Jonathan Blass writes from Neve Tzuf.

The foregoing commentary was distributed by the Aloh Naaleh organization.




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