Your Family or Your Fortune

Valuable treasures hidden here just below the
surface in this week's Torah reading. Let's examine just one of them.

Rabbi S. Weiss,

Judaism Rabbi S Weiss.JPG
Rabbi S Weiss.JPG
Arutz 7

Our Torah Reading  continues Moshe's last words to Bnei Yisrael during the final 5 weeks of his life. He tells
Getting our priorities straight is a matter of life & death.

them he had pleaded with Hashem to be allowed into Israel.

Moshe warns the people to respect & follow the Mitzvot, neither adding to nor subtracting from their
number. They are told to pass down their experiences of Mount Sinai to every generation.

Moshe warns the people that failure to keep the Mitzvot will result in exile from Israel, but eventually
they will return to the Jewish homeland. After setting aside 3 Cities of Refuge east of the Jordan, Moshe
repeats the 10 Commandments.

The 1st paragraph of the Shema follows, containing the Mitzvot to love Hashem, the One and Only G-d;
to educate our young; to wear Tefilin & place a Mezuza on our doorposts.

The Haftora is Yeshayahu 40, Nachamu, Nachamu, the 1st in a series of Haftorot offering consolation for
the destruction of Yerushalayim, promising that we will not be forsaken by Hashem.

This Monday is the holiday of Tu B'Av); Tachanun is not recited.

Your Family or Your Fortune

Our reading contains perhaps the two best-known credos of our faith: the Ten Commandments & Shma Yisrael.
Yet there are a whole lot of other, less glamorous but equally valuable treasures hidden here just below the
surface. Let's examine just one of them.

Moshe Rabbeinu, as one of his final acts in the last month of his life, designates 3 cities east of the Jordan to be
used as Cities of Refuge, where accidental murderers can seek asylum for their crimes. But, as we know, the east
bank would be home to just 2 ½ tribes - Reuven, Gad & part of Menashe. Why would they need 3 full cities, as
many as served all the other 9 ½ tribes?

Rashi addressed this question & concluded that there must have been a preponderance of man-slaughterers among these 2 ½ tribes. But how did that happen?

Our first impulse might be to say that the decision of these tribes to live apart from the nation at large had a
negative effect on their moral standards. Or perhaps their self-proclaimed desire to seek "greener pastures" & to pursue wealth may have muddled their priorities.

But while this makes sense, we also must remember that these tribes complied fully with Moshe's demand that they take up arms together with their brothers west of the Jordan & fight alongside them in order to liberate Israel. In fact, not only did they equally participate in the seven-year war against Canaan, they stayed an additional 7 years until the land was allocated & divided! Wasn't this exemplary behavior on their part, to be commended & praised? Why should they have suffered because of it?

I suggest that Reuven, Gad & Menashe may not have done anything so terribly wrong. But their being away for 14 years caused their children to grow up without a father!

Lacking that paternal influence, the next generation may not have had the highest moral code & regard for others,
resulting in a laxity of behavior that contributed to a preponderance of accidental deaths in their midst.

At a Pidyon HaBen, the Kohen asks the father if he prefers keeping his son, or would rather give up his son for service in the Temple, while retaining his 5 silver shekels. But the question is totally absurd; a first-born cannot serve as a Kohen, even if the father is willing to give him up!

But the Kohen, as spiritual guide, is trying to teach the father something very important here: "Now that you are starting a family, choose between the kesef (money) & the kinder; you can't always have both. Decide where your time, energy, creativity & love will be centered."

The Torah is telling us, in dramatic fashion, that getting our priorities straight is a matter of life & death - for us &
very possibly for everyone else around us.