The tribe of Gad has always had my utmost respect. Other tribes – such as Judah, Levi and Joseph – may be more famous, but the fortitude and sacrifice demonstrated by the tribe of Gad is unequaled.

In this week's Torah portion, we read that the tribe of Gad, accompanied by the tribe of Reuben, requested of Moses to settle outside the mainland of Israel, on the east bank of the Jordan River, whose holiness was not on par with the land on the west of the river. Their request also entailed a material sacrifice – their land wasn't as fertile, it wasn't "flowing with milk and honey." Though ostensibly their request was based on the east bank's abundant pastureland for their cattle, they had a loftier hidden agenda.

The tribe of Gad formed the elite frontline corpsIn the blessing he granted the tribe of Gad before his passing, Moses says, "He saw the first portion for himself, because there the portion of the lawgiver is hidden" (Deuteronomy 33:21). Rashi, quoting from the Talmud, explains: "[Gad] saw fit to take for himself territory in the land [on the east bank], whose land was the beginning of the conquest of the Land. For Gad knew that within his territory would be contained the field designated for the burial of 'the lawgiver,' namely Moses."

No other tribe exhibited such selfless devotion to Moses.

And another of Gad's unique qualities:

Moses acceded to Gad's request, but only after the tribe agreed to enter Israel's mainland and wage battle against the Canaanites. The tribe of Gad formed the elite frontline corps; they led their brethren into battle. Why Gad? Once again we turn to Moses' blessing to Gad: "He lives like a lion; he will tear off the arm [of his enemy, along] with the head."

Rashi explains that Gad's battle victims were readily identifiable. With one fell swoop of the sword they would cut off the head together with the arm. The ability to strike such a blow is an indication of tremendous lion-like strength, and it was due to their unique and tremendous strength that Gad marched at the forefront of the Israelite army.

The battle against the seven Canaanites nations was fought more than 3,000 years ago. But its spiritual counterpart is ongoing. That is the war being waged within the heart of every Jew against the unhealthy and unspiritual impulses that are his natural lot. The objective is to settle in the Promised Land: a state of holiness and connectedness to our Creator

This internal conflict comprises multiple battle arenas. We regularly struggle against noxious thoughts and ideas, negative desires and urges, as well as poor behavior patterns. Normative battle strategy calls for dealing with each arena on its terms. We conquer the mind through studying Torah and meditating on its ideas and precepts. The heart is won over by inculcating it with love and awe for G‑d and our magnificent heritage. Behavior patterns are corrected through practice, and also as a natural result of our mind and heart's refinement and spiritualization.

This is a laborious process, requiring that we methodically sever the individual "limbs" and expressions of our spiritual foe.

Enter the tribe of Gad and their distinctive approach to battle.

When one taps in to the core of the soul, there is no need to sever the enemy's limbs piecemealTheir physical brute strength was a reflection of their spiritual strength—revealed when they courageously volunteered to march in advance of the Israelite troops. There is nothing rational about an offer to endanger one's own life for the benefit of others. Such dedication emanates from a soul-dimension which transcends logic, emotions, and even the deep-seated self-preservation instinct. It is an expression of the soul's essential and utterly selfless commitment to G‑d and fellow Jew.

When one succeeds in tapping in to the core of the soul, there is no need to sever the enemy's limbs piecemeal. With one blow, the awesome strength of the Jewish soul lops off the "arm together with the head." The head represents the mind, our premier faculty, and the arm is a metaphor for action, the human's basest function—both defeated with one blow.

In modern terminology, this is called the "nuclear option." One that can be exercised with no concern for possible collateral damage...1

Are you wondering from whence the tribe of Gad derived this awesome spiritual might? Is it a stretch to reckon that this is somehow connected to their first unique quality mentioned above? What do you think?

For more insight on some of the ideas expressed in this essay, see The Peaceful Battle.