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Updated: Jul 18, 2023

They loved their possessions more than themselves, prioritizing sheepfolds over towns for their children, revealing the danger of misplaced priorities and the lure of material wealth. Or, their yearning for a deeper connection with God led them to seek spiritual isolation, but their initial proposal highlighted the challenge of balancing material possessions and spiritual growth. On Parshas Matos

by ChatGPT and Bing AI

The Torah tells of how the tribes of Gad and Reuben, renowned for their vast possession of livestock, express their desire to dwell in the fertile lands east of the Jordan River, rather than crossing over to the Promised Land with the rest of the Israelites. Their plan was to build corrals for their livestock and towns for their children in the desired area, assuring Moses that they will join their brethren on the front lines until the entire land is conquered. Moses agrees to their request, emphasizing the importance of family by stating, 'Build towns for your children and pens for your sheep.'


The classic commentary Rashi sheds light on their approach, noting that the tribes of Gad and Reuben mentioned their animals before their children, seemingly indicating a misplaced priority, placing material possessions above family. Rashi's commentary directs our attention to the tribes' potential materialistic tendencies. However, we can gain further insight from the Midrash Tanchuma (Matot 7), which expands on this theme:

“And much cattle” (Numbers 32:1). This is the meaning of the verse in Ecclesiastes 10:2, “A wise man’s heart is to his right,” referring to Moses; “but a fool’s heart is to his left,” referring to the Children of Reuben and the Children of Gad. They made the essential secondary and the secondary essential because they loved their possessions more than themselves. As they said to Moses, “We will build here sheepfolds for our flocks,” first, and afterwards, “and towns for our children” (Numbers 32:16). Moses admonished them, “Do not do like this, make the essential first; build towns for your children, and afterwards sheepfolds for your flocks” (Numbers 32:24).

The Midrash Tanchuma emphasizes the tribes' misplaced priorities and the rebuke they received for loving their possessions more than themselves. This highlights the importance of cultivating a healthy perspective on wealth and possessions, placing spiritual well-being and family above material gain.


According to the perspective of Chabad Chassidus, the tribes of Gad and Reuben's desire for spiritual isolation as shepherds stemmed from a genuine yearning for a deeper connection with God. They sought a path that allowed them to focus on their spiritual growth without the distractions of settled life. In this light, their choice can be seen as a sincere attempt to create an environment conducive to their unique spiritual journey.

However, it is important to acknowledge that their approach was not without flaws. While their intention may have been rooted in a genuine desire for spiritual growth, their prioritization of material possessions and their initial proposal to settle outside of Israel raised concerns. The emphasis on their livestock and the mention of building sheepfolds before towns for their children indicated a potential imbalance in their priorities.

The Chabad perspective encourages us to look beyond surface judgments and explore the underlying motivations and intentions of individuals. It reminds us to seek the positive aspects in people's actions, even when they may seem questionable at first glance. By doing so, we can gain a deeper understanding of their struggles and aspirations, as well as our own.


Ultimately, the story of Gad and Reuben teaches us the importance of aligning our priorities with higher intentions and a genuine connection with the Divine. It calls us to evaluate our own choices and strive for a harmonious integration of our material pursuits and our spiritual growth.

In conclusion, the Chabad perspective helps reconcile the seemingly conflicting aspects of the story of Gad and Reuben. It acknowledges their genuine yearning for spiritual growth while also recognizing the need for self-reflection and rectification. By understanding the underlying motivations and seeking a harmonious balance, we can navigate our own journeys and inspire others to find the hidden treasures within themselves.

May the story of the tribes of Gad and Reuben inspire us to explore the deeper dimensions of our own lives and the lives of those around us. May we always strive for spiritual growth, seeking a profound connection with the Divine, and may we merit to uncover the hidden treasures that lie within each person's journey.

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