A Small Warning about a Big Issue
“And the sons of Gad and the sons of Reuven came....” (Bamidbar 32:2)
First, the Kli Yakar reminds us that Bnei Reuven should have been mentioned first because Reuven is the tribe of the first-born, with previous commentators opining that Bnei Gad preceded Bnei Reuven because Bnei Gad's greater amount of livestock placed a greater strain on Bnei Gad as far as sustaining all that livestock.
Then the Kli Yakar says:
And I say that...it wasn’t because of their [greater] strain that they jumped to the front, but because of their haughty hearts...
...because that is the nature of wealth; it gives a feeling of superiority to its owners and a wealthy layman jumps to the front and will brazenly answer and he will not do teshuvah before any man.
He doesn’t give honor to the first-born and not to any people of true greatness...
“For not from East nor from West nor from the wilderness comes 'mountains.' For Hashem is Judge; He lowers this one and raises that one.”
The Kli Yakar notes that every mention of the word “mountains” in the Torah refers to actual mountains – except this one.
This time, it indicates a state of superiority, of feeling above others:
...HaKadosh Baruch Hu doesn’t want a man to feel superior because of his money because Hashem is Judge; He lowers this one and raises that one.
- A person becomes wealthy.
- Then that person starts feeling superior...
- ...which compels Hashem to lower him for his own good by transferring his wealth to someone else.
- In turn, that new wealthy person starts feeling superior.
- This compels Hashem to also lower him...
...and so on.
As the Kli Yakar notes, Bnei Gad didn't make themselves wealthy; Hashem made them wealthy (the implication being that their wealth was transferred from Bnei Reuven, I think).
...he should take mussar and not let his heart grow haughty lest it will happen to him what happened to his friend, from whom he is taking that money.
And it is also a very precious interpretation according to the meaning of the verses that caution against a haughty spirit as it says [Tehillim 75:5-6]:
Don’t feel superior, etc. and ends its words with, He lowers this one and raises that one....
The sons of Gad and Reuven were so permeated with the pursuit of money that they despised the Desirable Land (Eretz Chemda) for the sake of wealth.
And it is enough in this small warning to those who are full of knowledge.
And the discerning one will listen and take a lesson from it.
Toward the end, the Kli Yakar goes into a poetic discussion (based on the first half of Tehillim 75:7) of how Bnei Gad and Bnei Reuven's settlement in the East necessitates them to travel to the West (where the rest of the Tribes dwell) for their livelihood.
He likens it to the sun's cycle of rising in the East and setting in the West, just as the successful journey of a traveling businessman means that he sets out (comes from the East) and returns home safely (sets in the West).
...the East (Mizrach) is a good sign (siman tov) for he who goes out from there...
This is my own translation and any errors are also mine.