Israel Forever

For the week ending 17 July 2004 / 28 Tammuz 5764

A Question of Priorities

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

When it comes to settling in Eretz Yisrael it is most important to determine priorities.

This message was subtly conveyed in this weeks Torah portion by Moshe to the children of Gad and the children of Reuben. These two tribes had requested to receive their share of the Promised Land on the east side of the Jordan River after joining the other tribes in conquering the entire Land. How would their families fare while the men were away at war?

"Pens for the flock shall we build here for our livestock," they proposed (Bamidbar 31:16) "and cities for our young children".

But when Moshe reviewed their proposal he said: "Build for yourselves cities for your young children and pens for your flock" (ibid. 32:24).

Rashi points out that Moshe subtly rebuked them for being more concerned about their possessions than their children, as expressed in what they mentioned first. Put first things first, he told them. First take care of your children and then your flock.

The sad state of the secular educational system in Israel, both in terms of pupil behavior and academic achievement, is undoubtedly the result of a society which made material possessions its priority rather than its children. The words of our greatest teacher, Moshe Rabbeinu, echo in our ears today, urging us to put first things first in order to secure Israel forever.

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