This week’s Torah portion, Matos and Massei, relay the events leading up to the Jewish Nation’s entry into Israel. Following the war with Midian, the tribes of Reuven and Gad approach Moshe requesting to take their share of the land in the conquered territories east of the River Jordan rather than in Israel proper. They reasoned that since God had blessed them with more wealth and belongings than could comfortably fit on any plot of land that they would be awarded in Israel, clearly their role was to be supporters of the Jewish people in Israel by taking good care of the material wealth God gave them and helping out their brothers.
Even so, Moshe scolded the sons of Reuven and Gad, suggesting and only after binding them with a detailed set of conditions that they would have to stand with their brothers in Israel when they went to war to conquer the land, did he agree to allow them to make their home outside of Israel.
One can certainly understand why this Torah portion is read each year during the Three Weeks of Mourning for the Temple. Moshe’s disapproval of their original request shows how a Jew should always by yearning to live in Israel, even if there is a legitimate reason to live in the Diaspora. This is certainly the purpose of the Three Weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av, as it establishes a time in the calendar when we are forced to stop and think about Israel and the Temple and contemplate our connection to the Land.
On my most recent trip to Israel with a group of local men, we were all amazed by how vibrant and joyous the people of Israel were, despite a year full of fear and tears. Where does their strength come from? How is it that a war-ravaged country with few natural resources are at the forefront of scientific and technological achievement with the longest life expectancy of any nation in the world?
It is clear to see that it is a sense of meaning and higher purpose that feeds their drive, their resilience, their pride and their dreams. They live with passion and intensity, knowing that they are living the dream of Jews for thousands of years who never had this opportunity. And there is the deep awareness of both the religious and secular Jews that they are in the spiritual epicenter of the world that fuels their joy and vitality.
As Jews in the Diaspora, we, like the Tribes of Reuven and Gad, must do what we can to support Israel by being outspoken advocates for Israel in an era where so many around us are turning cold. We need to support organizations that support Israel. We must pray for Israel and certainly visit Israel whenever we have the opportunity.
And most importantly, we can never ever stop dreaming about the coming of Moshiach, when Israel we be our undisputed home. We are seeing before our eyes the very beginnings of that dream come true. Our prayers, our tears and our longing for the final redemption will certainly be the catalyst to bring it all home.