What’s the connection between Nedarim, vows, and the request of Bnei Reuven and Bnei Gad to settle in Ever HaYarden, TransJordan?
It is said (Shemos 31:16) וְשָׁמְרוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת הַשַּׁבָּת לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת הַשַּׁבָּת לְדֹרֹתָם בְּרִית עוֹלָם, the Children of Israel shall observe the Shabbos, to make the Shabbos an eternal covenant for their generations, and the Zohar states that the word לְדֹרֹתָם can be interpreted as לדירתם, for their dwelling places. The Imrei Emes writes that the word נֶדֶר, a vow, is similar to the word דירה, a dwelling. This reflects the idea that one’s word has to be as solid as a wall.
We can suggest that the Bnei Reuven and Bnei Gad were seeking a dwelling place and they gave their word that they would first cross the Jordan River and fight the enemies so that the rest of the Jewish People could settle the land. The Medrash (see Bamidbar Rabbah 22:8), however, tells us that that their actions were flawed, as they acted hastily and, ultimately, the tribes of Reuven and Gad went into exile before all the other tribes. We see that although they committed to a good cause, their words were incomplete, because they should have committed to settling in Eretz Yisroel themselves.
Why was it wrong for the Tribes of Reuven and Gad to request land outside of Eretz Yisroel? It is noteworthy that when Gad was born, Leah proclaimed בָּא גָד, which, according to one interpretation cited by Rashi, means that Leah was declaring that Yaakov had betrayed her by taking her maidservant as a wife. Apparently, the tribe of Gad perpetuated this character trait by betraying HaShem’s promise to the Jewish People that they would inherit Eretz Yisroel. Similarly, Reuven acted hastily when he switched the beds, and the tribe of Reuven followed this path of impetuosity by requesting land before the rest of the tribes.
There are many reasons offered for why we still are in exile, and one of them is that people do not keep their word and commitments.
HaShem should allow us to stick to our commitments and not, Heaven forbid, betray HaShem and others, and then we will merit the fulfillment of our daily prayers, where we recite the words וְלִירוּשָׁלַיִם עִירְךָ בְּרַחֲמִים תָּשׁוּב וְתִּשְׁכֹּן בְּתוֹכָהּ כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבַּרְתָּ, and to Jerusalem, Your city, may You return in compassion, and may You rest within it, as You have spoken.
Have a Committed and Redeeming Shabbos!