Matot-Massei: Are Your Brothers To Go To War While You Stay Here?
If you are a Jew living in the diaspora and your son or daughter came home one day and told you they have decided to join the IDF. How would you respond? Would you be proud of your child for being so courageous? Or would you try and dissuade him or her by asking them to reconsider? The real question with which we are being confronted is: To what extent are we as Jews responsible to defend our people and our country? What personal sacrifices are we expected to make toward that end? As the Jewish people were about to enter the land of Israel, two tribes ask Moses for permission to settle locally. Moses responded to them rhetorically with a most powerful phrase. He asks “Are your brothers to go to war while you stay here? (Numbers 32:6). Like all narratives of the Torah this phrase is both timeless and timely. In the sentence Moses is convoying multiple messages to each and every Jew throughout the ages. On a literal level Moses is spelling out in no uncertain terms what it means to be a Jew. He is saying to all of us that a problem for our brothers and sisters anywhere in the world is in fact our problem too. Consequently it is our responsibility if need be to go to “war” in order to protect them. On a more subliminal level He is also stating the inevitable. Moses is telling diaspora Jews of future generations that Israel’s fight is your fight. Don’t think for a moment that our worlds are separate. Don’t convince yourself that Jews in the diaspora are on a different trajectory. As the saying goes “we’re all in the same boat”. Our future, like our past is intertwined. We all share a collective destiny. Yes being Jewish is our birthright. However, this is coupled with an intrinsic responsibility to defend that right. We can only truly live our lives as Jews if we are prepared to make sacrifices to protect our lives as Jews. Whomever, wherever, whenever.