In this week’s Torah portion, three tribes come forward with a request. They would like to settle in the Transjordan area rather than in Israel itself. The three tribes represented are Reuben, Gad, and (half of) Manasseh. This feels like an odd grouping of tribes to be unified in shared purpose. How did they find each other and decide that they wanted their tribes to be settled together? Reuben was a child of Leah. Gad was a child of Leah’s concubine Zilpah and Manasseh was the child of Joseph (the child of Rachel). They seem to have nothing in common.
The answer can be found by looking at a map if where the tribes were placed around the Tabernacle. You can see in the picture below that Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh were all next to each other in the encampment. Because of their (somewhat) random placement, they talked and decided to continue to live together.
So much of the choices we make are due to the people we choose to surround ourselves with. They help us think about things in new ways and are the opinions that we are likely to hear the most. In the ways that we can’t choose the people who surround us, let’s try to be mindful of the constructive and destructive effects that those people are having on our lives. And when we do have a choice, let’s be sure to surround ourselves with people who cause us to think about things in new ways and enrich our lives through their presence.