Sharona Margolin Halickman

Was Transjordan originally part of Israel?

Photo Courtesy Joshua Halickman

Moshe’s song (Haazinu) was already introduced in the last verse of Parshat Vayelech (Dvarim 31:30):

Moshe spoke the words of his song into the ears of the entire congregation of Israel, until their conclusion.

Moshe sang his song in Transjordan (known as Jordan today). Does that mean that Moshe was in Israel after all as Transjordan would eventually become part of the Biblical Land of Israel?

In Breisheet 15:18 we read:

On that day, God made a covenant with Avram, saying, “To your descendants have I given the Land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates River, the Keni, the Knizi, the Kadmoni, the Hitti, the Prizi, the Rephaim, the Emori, the C’naani, the Girgashi and the Yevusi.

However, Transjordan only officially became part of Eretz Yisrael after the other side of the Jordan (Israel today) was conquered.

We see this in Bamidbar 32:20-22:

Moshe said to them (the tribes of Reuven and Gad):

If you do this thing, if you arm yourselves before God for battle, and every armed man among you shall cross the Jordan before God, until He drives out His enemies before Him, and the Land shall be conquered before God, and then you shall return- then you shall be vindicated from God and from Israel, and this Land shall be a heritage for you before God.

Rashi points out that when Moshe set aside “Arei Miklat”, Cities of Refuge, it was for the future and not starting at that exact moment (Dvarim 4:41-43):

Then Moshe set aside three cities on the bank of the Jordan, toward the rising sun. For a killer to flee there, who will have killed his fellow without knowledge…Bezer in the wilderness in the land of the plain of the Reuveni, Ramot in the Gilad of the Gadi and Golan in the Bashan of the Menashi.

In the Talmud, Makkot 9b, we learn in the Mishna:

As long as the three cities of refuge in Eretz Yisrael proper had not been selected, the three across the Jordan did not provide refuge. As it says (Bamidbar 35:13) “they shall be six cities of refuge”, until all six of them provide refuge simultaneously.

The three cities of refuge in Eretz Yisrael proper were only designated after the Land was conquered and divided by Yehoshua, fourteen years after B’nai Yisrael arrived in the Land. At that point, all six cities of refuge were put into use.

We see from here that although in Moshe’s time Tranjordan did not have the sanctity of Eretz Yisrael, it later became sanctified. So although Moshe was not in the sanctified Land, he was instrumental in helping B’nai Yisrael begin conquering and settling the future Land of Israel by fighting the kings Og and Sichon, designating the Land for the 2½ tribes in Transjordan and selecting the “Arei Miklat”. B’nai Yisrael and Yehoshua were then able to forge on to the other side of the Jordan.

Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook was the Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael, before the State of Israel was established. He and others of his generation led the groundwork of Religious Zionism, even if they didn’t live long enough to experience the establishment of the State.

We must look back to Moshe Rabbeinu and Rav Kook and gain inspiration from their leadership and elect leaders who will follow in their footsteps.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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