Parshat Matot by Elianna Pollak
The Torah’s Call for Transparency!
In Parshat Matot, the tribes of Rueben, Gad and half of Menashe request of Moshe to be allowed to dwell to the east of the Jordan river where the land is ideal for their animals, rather than entering the Land of Israel. Moshe responds by saying: “Shall your brothers go out to battle while you settle here…” The three tribes tell Moshe that they will enter the Land of Israel ahead of their brothers and help conquer it and only then will they return to the east of the Jordan. Moshe ok’s this plan, claiming that thus “you shall be vindicated (nikiyim) from Hashem and from Israel.” The Torah Temimah, the commentary of Rav Baruch Halevi Epstein, mentions an excerpt from the Jerusalem Talmud on the phrase “you shall be vindicated” which describes that that there are numerous examples throughout Tanach which press the need for one to be seen as righteous not only by God, but also by one’s fellow man, as evidenced in this weeks parshah: “You shall be vindicated from Hashem and from Israel.” Rav Epstein explains that one needs not only find favor and graciousness in God’s eyes, but must make it his business to ensure that there should be no reason for his fellow to ever suspect him of anything. Indeed, Moshe in this week’s parshah is one of the first advocates for transparency. Moshe understands that while one ultimately has only God to answer to, there is huge value and importance in creating an open community where ones deeds are scrutinized and hopefully deemed adequate by its members. Unfortunately, transparency is not easy in our communities today as many take the law into their own hands. It is therefore of the utmost importance for Uri L’tzedek and other social minded organizations to push for transparency, to pressure organizations to come clean to themselves, the community, and ultimately, to God.