Rabbi Milevsky's Thought of the Week: Mattot - 5771
STRENGTHENING THE CONNECTION TO ERETZ YISRAEL
In Parashat Mattot we find Moshe reacting forcefully and critically to a request made by the children of Reuben and Gad to inhabit the land on the east bank of the Jordan River.
He accused them of forsaking the other tribes at a time of war and danger. He noted that their refusal to join could demoralize the rest of the nation. The two tribes clarified their request by stating that they were fully prepared to send troops into the land and assist in the conquest.
However, when Moshe actually declares that the land would be given to them, he mentions that half the tribe of Menashe will settle with them as well. Yet they had not asked for the land on the east bank at all. Commentators wonder why indeed a portion of the tribe of Menashe ended up settling with the children of Reuben and Gad.
Some authorities note that the tribe of Menashe included people who had a great love for the Land of Israel. Yosef, the father of Menashe, loved the Land of Israel and thus insisted that his bones be returned there. This love for Eretz Yisrael ran in the family. Tzelafchad's daughters insisted that they be given their fair portion in the Land.
Moshe was concerned that the dwellers of the East bank of the Jordan River would, over time, lose their connection to Eretz Yisrael proper. Therefore he assigned members from the Menashe tribe as “Shlichim” to strengthen the love of the land for future generations.