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Shall Your Brethren Go to War and You Sit in Brooklyn?

By Tzvi Fishman
7/19/2011, 1:00 AM

The fast of the 17th of Tammuz marks the breaching of the walls of Yerushalayim. Our Sages teach us that the destruction of Jerusalem and the Beit Hamikdash began with the sin of the Spies in the wilderness who didn’t want to make aliyah to Eretz Yisrael. We will discuss this concept in the next coming weeks.

As we have written on several occasions, the Torah is not a book of ancient fables that are nice to read, but have no connection with our lives. What happened to our forefathers is a sign for us, pointing out the way that the Almighty wants us to follow today. When we read about the lives of our forefathers in the Torah, we are called upon to set our own lives after their example. That’s what makes the Torah a “living Torah,” a guidebook and mirror for our lives as well.

For example, in this week’s Torah portion, it is written:

“Now the children of Reuven and the children of Gad had a very great multitude of cattle; and when they saw the land of America, and the land of Canada, that, behold, the place was a place for cattle, the children of Gad and the children of Reuben came and spoke unto Moshe, and to Eleazar the priest, and unto the princes of the congregation, saying: 'Brooklyn, and Monsey, and Lakewood, and Miami Beach, and Boca, and LA, and Dallas, and Toronto, and Montreal, is a land for cattle, and thy servants have cattle.' And they said: 'If we have found favor in thy sight, let this land be given unto thy servants for a possession; bring us not over the Jordan.'”

Moshe goes on to compare the request of the tribes of Reuven and Gad to separate from the nation by settling outside of the primary borders of the Land to the desire of the Spies to remain in the wilderness.   

“And Moses said unto the children of Gad and to the children of Reuven: 'Shall your brethren go to the war, and shall ye sit here? And wherefore will ye turn away the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the Land which Hashem hath given them? Thus did your fathers, when I sent them from Kadesh-Barnea to see the Land. For when they went up unto the valley of Eshcol, and saw the Land, they turned away the heart of the children of Israel, that they should not go into the Land which Hashem had given them.”

Not wanting to live in the Land of Israel, and not joining the rest of the nation in its settlement, is considered as undermining the whole national project of the Jewish People which is to establish our nationhood in Eretz Yisrael, as Hashem has commanded.

“And, behold, ye are risen up in your fathers' stead, a brood of sinful men, to augment yet the fierce anger of Hashem toward Israel. For if ye turn away from after Him, He will yet again leave them in the wilderness; and so ye will destroy all this people.'”

Not wanting to live in Eretz Yisrael is considered turning away from Hashem, as the verse clearly states. It is a division of the nation which blatantly rejects G-d’s plan for the Jewish People – the establishment of the Nation of Israel in Eretz Yisrael, thus undermining our strength and national security.

What applied to Reuven and Gad applies to us now. Not wanting to live in the Land of Israel is what breaches the walls of Jerusalem.

To be continued after the fast.