A Torah Thought for
Parashot Matot - Masei
By Rabbi Mordechai Rabinowitz
The Torah relates that Moshe cut a deal with Reuven and Gad, and then allotted territory east of the Jordan, to the tribes of Reuven and Gad, and "half of the tribe of Menasheh"(Bamidbar 32:33). The obvious question: What is the tribe of Menasheh doing here?
Netziv (Haamek Davar, Devorim 3:16), after proving that Menasheh excelled in Torah scholarship, suggests that Moshe Rabbeinu wanted to prevent Reuven and Gad from dwelling in a territory bereft of Torah. Netziv sees this precedent as teaching that one should strive to reside near a Torah center.
But why did Moshe Rabbeinu not place the entire tribe of Menasheh together with Gad and Reuven? Why only "half the tribe"?
Moshe Rabbeinu, our greatest leader ever, anticipated that the physical separation of Reuven and Gad from the rest of the Jewish people, could induce them to form an independent confederacy, threatening the integrity of the Jewish nation. To insure a vibrant connection with the rest of Israel, Moshe Rabbeinu put only half of Menasheh with Reuven and Gad. The steady interaction between the two halves of Menasheh, would bridge the physical separation between the disparate communities, and keep the House of Israel in one piece.