”ויאמרו אם מצאנו חן בעיניך יתן הארץ הזאת לעבדיך לאחזה אל תעברנו את הירדן “
They said if we have found favor in your eyes give this land to your servants as a heritage. Do not bring us across the Jordan river”
In this week’s Parsha we read about the request of the children of Gad and Reuven to remain on the other side of the Jordan, and not to inherit Eretz Yisrael proper with the rest of the Jewish people. At first glance, this request is hard to understand. How can it be that the land that Moshe Rabeinu prayed 515 times to enter was not special enough to the children of Gad and Reuven that they were willing to give up their plot? In addition, the reason they gave for asking to remain on the east side of the Jordan was to have enough food for their livestock. This is perplexing because we read every day in Shema that if we do the will of Hashem He will give us grass for our animals to eat. How can it be that they were nervous that there would not be enough food for their livestock in Eretz Yisrael? It is interesting to note that throughout the entire Parsha,with the exception of the first instance, the children of Gad are always mentioned before the children of Reuven. Since we know that Reuven was the first born, shouldn’t his children be listed first?
The Gemara in Sotah (13b) tells us that the reason the children of Gad wanted to stay on the other side of the Jordan was because they knew that Moshe Rabeinu was not going to enter into Eretz Yisrael. They didn’t want to abandon Moshe, even in his death, so they decided to remain with him on the other side of the Jordan. They felt if they remained close to Moshe Rabeinu, this proximity would serve as a constant reminder of the Torah that he taught. Even though this meant not going into Eretz Yisrael, they felt that the value of remaining close to a righteous person was greater than being in Eretz Yisrael; therefore they remained across the river. When they told Moshe it was because of their livestock, it was only because they felt it was not proper to speak about the death of Moshe Rabeinu in front of him. Since this idea came from shavet Gad, per the allusion in the pasuk in Devarim(33:21), Gad is mentioned first.
The actions of the children of Gad show us the importance of a person’s remaining close to righteous people. Even at the expense of living in the holiest land in the world, they felt they had to do this in order to remain strong in their service of Hashem. This should serve as a reminder to us how important it is for our personal growth to remain connected to righteous people.