Contributed by: R. Ezra Mizrahi
In this week's parasha, Matot, we read of Reouven and Gad who requested from Moshe to take the land outside of Israel for themselves. Acres upon acres of land were captured by Moshe and the great army of Bnei Yisrael; land which Bnei Yisrael was apparently walking away from, as they were positioning to enter the land of Israel.
"So they came to Moses and Eleazar the priest and to the leaders of the community, and said . . . the land the LORD subdued before the people of Israel—are suitable for livestock, and your servants have livestock." (Numbers 32:2-4)
The two tribes had a large amount of livestock, and requested from Moshe to settle this fertile land that would be ideal for pasture. However, within their request, we discover something very shocking:
"Then they came up to him and said, "We would like to build pens here for our livestock and cities for our women and children." (Numbers 32:16)
The two tribes first spoke about preparing shelter for their animals, before they spoke about preparing shelter for their families! Rashi tells us that they these two tribes cared more for their money and wealth than they cared for their children. Rashi continues to explain that Moshe corrects their mistake, by reversing the order of verse:
"Build cities for your women and children, and pens for your flocks, but do what you have promised." (Numbers 32:24)
Now this Rashi is a little hard to swallow. We are talking about two tribes, descendants of the actual two sons of Yaacob, Reouven and Gad. These people spent the last 40 years wandering the desert with Moshe Rabeynou, the man who learned Torah directly from Hashem. How could it possibly stand to reason, that such learned individuals believe something so obviously wrong?
Let us explain the Rashi in a slightly different way. Instead of saying that the two tribes favored their wealth over their own children, we can say that the two tribes chose to feel the loss of their money when it came to expenses that dealt with their children. When one comes to spend money on his child, one could either focus on the loss of money, or simply focus on the need of the child being fulfilled.
In our terms, a perfect example: they chose their money over education.
Moshe rebukes the tribes that this is the wrong outlook. One must first think of the children, their education is first and foremost, while the money to be spent to achieve a top Jewish education is only secondary.
They are many people in our community who work long hours, spending little time with their loved ones. When problems arise in the home, one of the first issues that surface is a feeling of neglect by the family from the working father. Unfortunately, the first explanation from the father begins something like this: "Well, Rabbi, I have 4 kids in Yeshivah, accumulating a cost of tuition through the roof."
We must learn from this week's Parasha, that money, and the love for what it can provide us, is secondary to the needs of children, such as a Jewish education in a time when it is an absolute must. Money is still important, for Moshe didn’t ignore the element of wealth in his rebuke, but rather he categorized it differently. The frills of over community lifestyles, must take a back seat to providing our youth with a love and passion for leading a life of Torah.
For one must note: historically, what happened to Reouven and Gad? Those who chose to favor their money even when doing so means compromising their child's education, in the end, lose their money. Reouven and Gad, were one of the first tribes to be pulled into galout and lose everything they had.