And to the tribes of Reuven and Gad I gave from the Gilad. And I commanded you at that time, saying: ‘Havayah your God has given you this land to possess it; you shall pass over armed before your brethren the children of Israel, all the men of valor. (From this week’s Torah portion, Devarim, Deuteronomy 3: 16,18)
Just last week, we read Moses’ criticism of the tribes of Reuven and Gad. He suspected that they preferred to remain on the East bank of the Jordan River where they would enjoy their wealth and not have to fight for the Land of Israel with the rest of their brethren. In this week’s Torah portion Moses gives Reuven and Gad the parcel of land that they requested and commands them, as per their request, to fight at the head of the Israelite army that conquers the Land of Israel.
In the interim, the tribes of Reuven and Gad had quietly convinced Moses that they were sincere in their intention to head the conquering Israelite army despite the fact that they would already have their portion of land.
Moses could have stubbornly refused to change his mind. But he was a true Jewish leader. He listened and was willing to change his opinion 180 degrees, from accusing the tribes of shirking their national duty, to actually commanding them to do what they had requested to do. The heads of the tribes of Reuven and Gad also displayed true leadership. After Moses’ criticism of their request, they responded by quietly and respectfully explaining their position, as we learned in last week’s Torah portion.
Baseless hatred is often the result of a simple lack of willingness to listen, to accept another point of view and to be convinced. Often, it is also the result of a lack of willingness to respectfully convince another of one’s point of view. The example of Moses and the leaders of the tribes of Reuven and Gad must be a guiding light for us. In the days preceding the Ninth of Av, we must redouble our efforts to rectify the sin of baseless hatred and rebuild the Holy Temple in Jerusalem – the city that unifies the entire Nation of Israel.