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Parashas Mattos

Lifnei Hashem

We learn many valuable lessons from the episode of the Bnei Gad and the Bnei Reuven. Firstly, we learn priorities. One must put his spiritual concerns - the welfare of his children - ahead of his material interests. Secondly, we learn about the love of Eretz Yisrael and the importance of living in the land that Hashem gave to the Jewish people. There is another, perhaps more subtle lesson from this episode, brought out by Rav Nachman Bulman zt"l.

We begin with the very first verse in the story. "The Bnei Reuven and the Bnei Gad had abundant livestock - a very great amount" (Bamidbar 32:1). How did it come about that these tribes had so much cattle? The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh explains that they were fearsome warriors. When they killed an adversary with their swords, they would cut off the head and the arm with one blow (Devarim 32:20). Klal Yisrael had just fought and conquered the lands of Sichon and Og. The tribes of Reuven and Gad had fought and killed a greater number of enemy soldiers; therefore they received a larger portion of the spoils. The nation now stood on the east bank of the Yarden, ready to cross over and begin the conquest of Eretz Yisrael. At this time, these two tribes came to Moshe Rabbeinu, Elazar HaKohen, and the leaders of the assembly with the following request.

"If we have found favor in your eyes, let this land be given to your servants as a homestead. Do not bring us across the Yarden" (Bamidbar 32:5). What was the problem with this request? Moshe Rabbeinu likened it to the chet ha'meraglim (sin of the spies). The Targum Yonason explains that if Reuven and Gad did not go along with the rest of the tribes to conquer the Holy Land, they would demoralize the nation, just as the meraglim did. Klal Yisrael would not want to enter Eretz Yisrael. How did they respond to this claim against them?

"We will arm ourselves as swift troops, who go ahead of the Bnei Yisrael until we have brought them to their destination" (32:17). "Demoralize the nation? Chas V'shalom (Heaven forbid)! We are strong warriors! We will go fight on the front lines! We will not return home until every Jew has inherited his homestead in Eretz Yisrael."

Moshe Rabbeinu saw that they would be fighting to conquer the Land of Israel for the purpose of inheriting the land. They were strong warriors, and they would do their share. However, this was not enough. There was a higher purpose to this military campaign. "If you arm yourselves lifnei Hashem…" (32:20). You are "lifnei Hashem" - in front of Hashem - when you fight this war. The Ohr HaChaim elaborates that this was a battle of revenge against the enemies of Hashem. That had to be the kavannah (intention) of the soldiers when going out to war. They were fighting a "milchemes mitzvah" to make a Kiddush Hashem (Sanctification of the Holy Name)! In the next verse, Moshe again says that they are "lifnei Hashem." Again and again he repeats it - lifnei Hashem" - seven times altogether! The Baal HaTurim comments that this corresponds to the seven years that it took to conquer Eretz Yisrael.

The Ohr HaChaim (32:21) adds that if your kavannah is that you are "lifnei Hashem," you will not even need a milchama! The Almighty will place the enemies directly in your hands without any fighting! It does not matter how strong or weak you are. "Hashem is the Master of War" (Shemos 15:3). This was the message that the Bnei Gad and Bnei Reuven needed to hear.

This message is relevant to us. We have many activities in which we participate in over the course of our lives. We have our studies, our relationships with people, our livelihood, our housework, and many other things. What is the ultimate purpose of all of these endeavors? To make a Kiddush Hashem. To remember that we are always "lifnei Hashem." To show the world and ourselves His Greatness. He is our Master and we are serving Him li'shaim Shamayim (for the sake of Heaven). If we do this, and do not rely on our own strength, then The Almighty will fight for us. He will give us Siyata Di'Shmaya (Heavenly Assistance) and we will succeed far beyond the efforts that we put in. The key is to remember that we are always "lifnei Hashem." It is all in His Hands. Our job is to Mekadesh Shaim Shamayim.

Kinderlach . . .

Where are you now? Learning Torah in school? Remember that you are lifnei Hashem. At home, helping Imma? Remember that you are lifnei Hashem. Waiting in line at the store? Remember that you are lifnei Hashem. Sitting on the bus? Remember that you are lifnei Hashem. Praying in the Beit HaKinesset? Remember that you are lifnei Hashem. Wherever you are, you are always lifnei Hashem. Act accordingly. Be respectful in His Presence. Show yourself and others that you are in the company of The Creator of the Universe. Be a Kiddush Hashem. Lifnei Hashem.

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