You shall be vindicated from Hashem and from Israel…(Bamidbar 32:22)

When we listen to the news, the media seem to be obsessed with finding faults in the people who shine out for their achievements. One may conclude that being that they are, so to speak, “greater than life”, we expect more from them. In this light, I would like to relate an incident that happened in 1982 in Lebanon. The Israelis were accused of killing innocent victims in the Sabra neighborhood and the adjacent Shatila refugee camp. On one of the American talk shows that was discussing this incident, the host took a call from a concerned citizen who asked “Why are you so obsessed with what is going on in Israel? The same incidents happened recently in other places throughout the world!” He then listed those places and explained the killings that went on in each. To this, the host replied “The Jews are the conscience of the world. We (gentiles) can act as we wish as long as we know that there are good people out there

[who are saving the world]. But if the Jews, who are supposed to have sterling character go amuck, then we (gentiles) are in real trouble.”

Aside from this, the people in the spotlight must also be on the alert for those who are jealous of their achievements or who have a lack of self-esteem. This is because these types of people often find fault in others in order to make themselves feel better.

The Oznayim l’Torah points out that when Shevet Gad and Shevet Reuven requested to remain on the Eastern side of the Jordan, Moshe accused them of not caring about their brothers. He felt these two tribes were considered the strongest of the tribes, and so all the other tribes were looking at their actions (See Tanchuma Matos 5). To prove to all that they were acting righteously, Moshe asked them to help conquer the land for 7 years. Gad and Reuvain said they will stay until the land is settled (another 7 years). Moshe said that doing this would free them from their obligation to Hashem and Bnei Yisrael ( The second 7 years would clear them from the conscious and sub-conscious accusations of the other tribes.)

This is the meaning of the word “and you will be clean….” It seems that blessings of wealth and strength put the tribes of Gad and Reuven in the headlines. Moshe teaches them that those gifts come with the responsibility to keep oneself clean in the eyes of the public.

We too have a responsibility to overcome the jealousy that others have over us as the “Chosen People” to go above and beyond what we are obligated to do.

This past Shabbos we spoke about what is permissible or forbidden to do during the Three Weeks and the Nine Days. But the difference between being ‘above the radar’ and ‘below the radar’ can sometimes rest on what we are supposed to be doing – even if it is above and beyond the halacha.

May we use this time to not only fulfill the technical halacha, but also to become the “conscience of all the nations”.