Matos – The Missing Shevet of Shimon

In this week’s Parsha we find that the Shevatim of Reuven and Gad come to Moshe with an unusual request . After forty years travelling towards Eretz Yisoel, they decide that they do not want to cross the Jordan and they want to remain on the other side. “We have lots of cattle and sheep and the land here is better so let us remain here.” Moshe at first rejects their request, saying that they are the Meraglim redux, but in the end after they agree to first lead the battle against the Canaanites, Moshe allows them to receive the land of Aiver HaYarden, the other side of the Jordan for their cattle. What is the meaning of what is going here? Why do they so much want this land?
What is the connection between Reuven and Gad that they come together? Even though at the end of the Parsha, half of Menashe joins this endeavor, but the original request is clearly from these two Shevatim? Reuven is the eldest of Leah and Gad is Zilpah’s first born, but what do they have in common? It would seem that the answer lies in the arrangement of the encampment of the desert. At the beginning of BaMidbar, the Jewish people are commanded to arrange their encampment around the Mishkan. This is not just a simple defensive arrangement but it has its sources in two previous aspects. The first is the way Yakov commanded his children to travel as they bring his coffin from Egypt to Ma’aros HaMachpela . There he places his children arranged in four groups of three, foreshadowing the way they will be in the desert. Secondly, when the Jews see the angels who descend with HaShem at Matan Torah, they see them as camps; and they also desire such an arrangement around the Shechina which is found in the Mishkan . The Ramban in explaining the arrangement quotes a Midrash that explains the logic of each of these groups .
The second group which is encamped on the southern side consists of Reuven, Shimon, and Gad. The Ramban explains, that Reuven is the leader since he has the characteristic of being a Ba’al Tehsuva. Reuven mixed up his father’s sleeping arrangements, and was castigated for that. Chazal teach us that Reuven was the original Ba’al Teshuva, since he is the first person to do Teshuva on his own, without being confronted by HaShem like Adam and Cain . Gad joins him since he is described as a mighty person a Gibor, so he is the rearguard. TheShem Mishmuel explains that this means that he is a Gibor who can overcome his Yetzer HaRa, as its says in Pirkei Avos . Shimon, who is the most prone to sin, is therefore protected on two sides by his brothers. So we see a connection between Reuven and Gad. But where is Shimon and why does this lead them to desire the land outside Eretz Yisroel.
In the writings of the ARIZ”L and R’ Menachem Azariah of Fano , there is the following explanation as to what Reuven and Gad have in common. When Yakov is getting married after working for seven years, he is expecting Rochel as his wife. When in the morning it is Leah, Leah is already expecting Reuven. Since, he thought it was Rochel, that is a blemish in Reuven’s conception. With Gad there is a similar experience. If you examine the Pesukim closely, Leah does not ask Yakov if he wants to marry Zilpah, but sends her in to Yakov. Gad is conceived without Yakov’s complete knowledge. Therefore, both of them do not merit to be in the rarified Kedusha of Eretz Yisroel, since they have this spiritual blemish from their birth. But, why does the desire to not live in Eretz Yisroel come through their own request?
I would like to suggest that since Reuven had this blemish, Hashem brought him to the sin with Bilhah, so he could do Teshuva for it. Once he did Teshuva for a sin of Kedusha, this included the blemish that he had from birth, and can rectify it.
Gad is actually born with a Bris Milah . He is born free and complete from any blemish of Kedusha. Therefore Eliyahu descends from him, who is the Malach HaBris. Also Eliyahu is Pinchas. Even though Pinchas is a Kohen, so how could he be from Gad? The answer is that we also count the mother’s source when we examine the spiritual aspect of a person’s makeup. So when Pinchas goes and executes Zimri the leader of the tribe of Shimon for acting incorrectly with the woman of Midian, HaShem is also allowing him to rectify the blemish in his source also. And this brings us back to Shimon.
Reuven and Gad need to protect Shimon from this specific failure. They are both able to rectify themselves, but Shimon drags himself and all of Klal Yisroel down with him. As a result of this sin, Shimon does not get a Bracha from Moshe, and he already does not have a chelek in Eretz Yisroel since Yakov took it away from him. In the division of the months showing the parallel of the twelve months and the twelve Shevatim, Shimon is Av. The source of all of Klal Yisroel’s disconnect from Eretz Yisroel, stems from Shimon’s disconnect.
Reuven and Gad desire to remain on the other side of the Jordan. Some Mefarshim learn that the land there was from what was conquered from Midian. Most disagree and say that it was the land of Sichon and Og . But the flocks and cattle did come from Midian . The root of Midian is Gilui Aroyos, a lack of Kedusha . Shimon instead of learning from Reuven and Gad, falls into this trap. Reuven and Gad desire to continue their efforts as Ba’alei Teshuva. That is to take what was received from Midian and use it correctly. Shimon cannot even go to battle against Midian. When everyone sends a thousand soldiers to battle against Midian, Shimon cannot . They have been too deeply affected by the sin, and cannot as of yet rectify this sin. So Reuven and Gad abandon Shimon, when they come to ask for this portion of the other side of the Yarden.
Shimon’s power lies in his name, to listen. When Zimri the prince of Shimon confronts Moshe and says if you can marry your Midianite wife I can take Kozbi, he is rejecting Moshe’s authority. He is destroying the Shmiah- hearing of Torah from Moshe. Pinchas/Eliyahu sees this taking place and learns a Halacha, that Moshe did not teach, but Pinchas derives from Torah that is heard from what Moshe taught. He removes the sin of Shimon by using Shmiah correctly . This is why Eliyahu will finally bring the completeness of the Torah when he returns, and teaches us all the hidden aspects that are missing. Then the sin of Shimon will be removed. Then all of Klal Yisroel will have their portion in Eretz Yisroel and that will be the Geulah.


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