The journey is almost over, as Moses and the tribal leaders plan the conquest of the Promised Land. The lands to the East of the Jordan have already been subdued, and two tribes - Reuben and Gad - figure this would be a pretty good place to settle:
Chapter 321 The Reubenites and the Gadites owned cattle in very great numbers. Noting that the lands of Jazer and Gilead were a region suitable for cattle, 2 the Gadites and the Reubenites came to Moses, Eleazar the priest, and the chieftains of the community, and said, 3 "Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo, and Beon — 4 the land that the Lord has conquered for the community of Israel is cattle country, and your servants have cattle. 5 It would be a favor to us," they continued, "if this land were given to your servants as a holding; do not move us across the Jordan."Moses doesn't think this is such a great idea. In fact, recalling the episode of the spies, he sees this as potentially bringing on a similar calamity:
6 Moses replied to the Gadites and the Reubenites, "Are your brothers to go to war while you stay here? 7 Why will you turn the minds of the Israelites from crossing into the land that the Lord has given them? 8 That is what your fathers did when I sent them from Kadesh-barnea to survey the land. 9 After going up to the wadi Eshcol and surveying the land, they turned the minds of the Israelites from invading the land that the Lord had given them. 10 Thereupon the Lord was incensed and He swore, 11 'None of the men from twenty years up who came out of Egypt shall see the land that I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for they did not remain loyal to Me — 12 none except Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they remained loyal to the Lord.' 13 The Lord was incensed at Israel, and for forty years He made them wander in the wilderness, until the whole generation that had provoked the Lord's displeasure was gone. 14 And now you, a breed of sinful men, have replaced your fathers, to add still further to the Lord's wrath against Israel. 15 If you turn away from Him and He abandons them once more in the wilderness, you will bring calamity upon all this people."The Reubenites and Gadites, however, seem to be taking responsibility for this decision:
16 Then they stepped up to him and said, "We will build here sheepfolds for our flocks and towns for our children. 17 And we will hasten as shock-troops in the van of the Israelites until we have established them in their home, while our children stay in the fortified towns because of the inhabitants of the land. 18 We will not return to our homes until every one of the Israelites is in possession of his portion. 19 But we will not have a share with them in the territory beyond the Jordan, for we have received our share on the east side of the Jordan."Moses relents, and in fact the two tribes are good for their word. They fight alongside their brethren, and only settle their lands after all the tribes have received their portions. They have paid their dues and earned the Good Life, the comfort and plenty beyond the Jordan. So all is well.
Or is it?
Rabbi Wein suggests that Moses had the right idea at first. Just as the spies shied away from the Land of Israel because of the apparent challenges, preferring the "security" of bondage, so do these two tribes misjudge the value of material comfort in exile compared to the effort of living the life that G*d envisioned for them in Israel:
But all of this temporary gain comes with cost and a price. Separated from their brethren west of the Jordan, the tribes of Gad and Reuven have a difficult time defending themselves and are the first tribes to be exiled. They produce no major leaders or heroes for the Jewish people and their dreams of prosperity and material success are only fleetingly realized.Even today, Israel is not an easy place to live in. By many measures, it appears that the costs outweigh the benefits. And even today, we see the attitudes of both the spies and the Trans-Jordanian tribes reflected. Those who reject the Zionist enterprise entirely, and those who "support" it from the presumed safety of the diaspora. Both groups miss the point. The rewards of living in Israel are not material, but spiritual. And in the long run, the spiritual life is what sustains us, both as individuals and as a community.