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12 tribes of Israel

Rabbi David SperlingIyyar 29, 5774
221
Question
In the book of Numbers, chapter 32 it tells of the men of the tribes of Gad and Reuben asking to have their portion of land east of the Jordan River, which was granted with stipulations. Why later does Moses also include half of the tribe of Manasseh in the Transjordan land? Also, is there any tradition as to what families of Manasseh were chosen for the east side of the Jordan River & the west side of the river?
Answer
Shalom, Thank you for your question. You are correct that the tribe of Manasseh did not request to have their portion of the land of Israel be on the eastern side of the Jordan, and none the less Moses split their tribe up and put half of them together with Gad and Reuven. Some commentators suggest that Moses did this in order to assure that the tribes of Gad and Reuven, who perhaps might drift away from feeling connected to the rest of the people of Israel, would stay unified with the Jewish people. This would occur as the tribe of Manasseh would naturally travel back and forth across the Jordan to visit their tribal family members. This constant, natural, connection between the two halves of the tribe of Manasseh would ensure a continual link with the rest of Israel, and stop a potential split off of the tribes of Gad and Reuven. There are other suggested answers to your question – but this one seems to make a lot of sense. As to which families from Manasseh went to which side if the Jordan – I am not aware of any tradition on this question (although I have learnt that the fact I have not seen the answer anywhere certainly does not mean it doesn’t exist!). Blessings.
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