Matot-Masei – Tribes / Journeys
– To: The Twelve Tribes in the Diaspora: Shalom!
– Listen! Heads of the tribes of the sons of Israel, Gather Yourselves Together and Assemble Yourselves so that Most High will make one nation in the Land.
– Lets bring burnt offering to the House of Most High and fulfill your Vows
The name of the forty-second reading from the Torah is Mattot (????), which means “tribes.” The name is derived from the words of Numbers 30:1, which says, “Then Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the sons of Israel.” , And it describes about the discusses the laws of vows and oaths. In the next chapter of Numbers tells the story of Israel’s war with Midian, And followed by relates the story of how the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Mannaseh came to inherit the land east of the Jordan River. The last reading from the book of Numbers is called Massei (????), a word that means “journeys.” It comes from the first verse of the reading, which begins with the words “These are the journeys of the sons of Israel” -Numbers 33:1.
Last week, in Parasha Pinchas, we read that G-d gave Pinchas (Phinehas) a pact of peace and everlasting priesthood in response to his zeal for the Lord.In this week’s Parasha, Moses speaks to the heads of the tribes (matot) about the laws governing vows (neder) and oaths (shevua).
Moshe teaches the rules and restrictions regarding the role of a father or a husband in the upholding or nullification of their wives or daughters vows.
“Moses said to the heads of the tribes ( matot ) of Israel: ‘This is what the Lord commands: When a man makes ( nadar ) a vow ( neder ) to the Lord or takes an oath ( shevua ) to obligate ( asar ) himself by apledge [issar], he must not break his word but must do everything he said.’” -Numbers 30:1–2
The three main sections of the first parasha of Matot are:
Laws regarding vows – Specifically, we learn about who is responsible for the vows or oaths of a woman, depending on her personal status (living in her father’s house, married, divorced, widowed. A vow or oath is a powerful use of words, made binding by the use of G-d’s name.
G-d asks one last thing of Moses before his death – to go to war against the Midianites. Balaam reappears here as the mastermind behind that mass-seduction. Moses is unhappy when the Israelite armies only kill the men and not the women. So he sends them back to slay all male children and all women who have known men carnally.
The tribes of Reuben and Gad claim the land on the East side of the Jordan -As their inheritance and want to settle it because it is good cattle country. A compromise is reached in which the Reubenite and Gadite men will serve as “shock-troops” and will conquer the land before returning to their lands on the East side of the river.
Torah States about VOW:
Then Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes of the people of Isra’el. He said, “Here is what Adonai has ordered: when a man makes a vow to Adonai or formally obligates himself by swearing an oath, he is not to break his word but is to do everything he said he would do. – Numbers 30:2-3
To an outsider you may lend at interest, but to your brother you are not to lend at interest, so that Adonai your G-d will prosper you in everything you set out to do in the land you are entering in order to take possession of it. “When you make a vow to Adonai your G-d, you are not to delay in fulfilling it, for Adonai your G-d will certainly demand it of you, and your failure to do so will be your sin. If you choose not to make a vow at all, that will not be a sin for you; – Deuteronomy 23:21-23
A vow is a means by which a person creates a personal obligation or restriction. One reason a person makes a vow is to obligate oneself to offer a sacrifice. This person would verbalize a commitment to bring an Olah sacrifice. Once this commitment is verbalized as a vow, the person is obligated to bring the offering. Failure to bring the offering is a violation of a binding Torah obligation.
A neder, then, dedicates something or someone to HaShem, such as a donation pledge, sacrificial offering or the dedication of a child as in the case of Hannah and Samuel.
Then she took a vow; she said, “Adonai-Tzva’ot, if you will notice how humiliated your servant is, if you will remember me and not forget your servant but will give your servant a male child, then I will give him toAdonai for as long as he lives; and no razor will ever come on his head.” -1 Samuel 1:11
That dedicated object or person then becomes holy: Throughout the time of his being a nazir he is holy for Adonai. – Numbers 6:8
Jacob (Yaacov) made this kind of vow in exchange for G-d’s provision and protection on his journey when he promised to give back to God a tenth (tithe)of everything G-d gave to him.
Ya‘akov took this vow: “If G-d will be with me and will guard me on this road that I am traveling, giving me bread to eat and clothes to wear, so that I return to my father’s house in peace, then Adonai will be my G-d; and this stone, which I have set up as a standing-stone, will be G-d’s house; and of everything you give me, I will faithfully return one-tenth to you.” -Genesis 28:20–22
We see an example of such an obligation in Genesis 47:31, when Jacob asked Joseph to make a shevua that he would bury him in Canaan.
He said, “Swear it to me,” and he swore to him. Then Isra’el bowed down at the head of his bed. -Genesis 47:31
Then Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes of the people of Isra’el. He said, “Here is what Adonai has ordered: when a man makes a vow to Adonai or formally obligates himself by swearing an oath, he is not to break his word but is to do everything he said he would do. – Numbers 30:2-3
A man who shall vow a vow , Vows are a means to asceticism.-Ethics of the Fathers 3:13
Asceticism leads to purity, purity leads to holiness, holiness leads to humility, humility leads to fear of sin, fear of sin leads to saintliness, saintliness leads to the [possession of] the holy spirit, and the holy spirit leads to eternal life. -Talmud, Avodah Zarah 20b
According to all that proceeds out of his mouth shall he do – Numbers 30:3
Better that you not vow, than that you should vow and not fulfill. –Ecclesiastes 5:4
Making a vow is a serious matter as Yeshua Taught:
Again, you have heard that our fathers were told, ‘Do not break your oath,’ and ‘Keep your vows to Adonai.’ But I tell you not to swear at all — not ‘by heaven,’ because it is God’s throne; not ‘by the earth,’ because it is his footstool;and not ‘by Yerushalayim,’ because it is the city of the Great King. And don’t swear by your head, because you can’t make a single hair white or black. Just let your ‘Yes’ be a simple ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ a simple ‘No’; anything more than this has its origin in evil. -Matthew 5:33-37
Moreover, I tell you this: on the Day of Judgement people will have to give account for every careless word they have spoken; for by your own words you will be acquitted, and by your own words you will be condemned.” -Matthew 12:36-37
Ecclesiastes advises: “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God…. When you make [nadar] a vow [neder]to G-d, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it.” -Ecclesiastes 5:2-5
It is a snare to dedicate a gift to G-d rashly and reflect on the vows only afterwards. -Proverbs 20:25
We see an example of an issar in the life of the Apostle Rabbi Shaul , when he joined four men in taking a Nazarite vow to prove to the Jewish People that he maintained an observant Jewish lifestyle and faithfully kept the Torah
So do what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow. Take them with you, be purified with them, and pay the expenses connected with having their heads shaved. Then everyone will know that there is nothing to these rumors which they have heard about you; but that, on the contrary, you yourself stay in line and keep theTorah. – Acts 21:23-24
Your vows are binding upon me, O G-d; I will render thank offerings to You.– Psalm 56:12
Genesis 47 : 31
Numbers 6 : 8
Jeremiah 2:4–28, 3:4, 4:1–2
1 Samuel 1:11
The portion is named ma-tot, because it begins with a command passed on to the heads of the tribes (matot) of Israel. In this week’s portion, the Israelites are taught the laws relevant when women make vows: the right of the father or husband to cancel them and how the process must be done. Following the giving of these laws, Moses is commanded to lead the Israelites in a war against the Mideanites before his death, as revenge for their behavior when trying to seduce the Israelites into idolatry. The Israelites go to war and are victorious, and are taught the rules of purifying their booty in order to be allowed to use it.
Parshat Masei, opens by summarizing the entire route travelled by the Jewish people over their forty years in the desert, beginning with their exodus from Egypt and concluding with their arrival at the banks of the Jordan River. After commanding the people to drive out all of the Holy Land’s inhabitants, the Torah delineates the exact boundaries of the land of Israel. Since the Levites would not be receiving a regular portion, special cities were to be set aside for them, some of which would also serve as cities of refuge for accidental murderers. In some cases, somebody who unintentionally killed another person would flee to one of these cities of refuge to seek sanctuary and avoid retribution from a close relative of the victim, and he would be required to remain there until the death of the present Kohen Gadol (High Priest). After setting the guidelines for the various categories of murder, the book of Numbers concludes with further information regarding the daughters of Tzlaphchad and the laws of inheritance.
At the end of the portion, the Reubenites and the Gadites, who were shepherds, request that their lot be given to them on the recently conquered fruitful east bank of the Jordan River. Their wish is granted under the condition that the men of the tribes shall participate in the fighting when the Israelites conquer the land of Canaan, and shall not return to their homes until the mission is completed. As we near the end of the Book of Numbers, we receive some additional laws, Moses receives his last task from G-d, and we begin to focus on the settlement of the Promised Land.
Listen! Heads of the tribes of the sons of Israel- Prepare for Gathering together ourselves about the redemption and conquering the holy land of Israel:
Beat your plowshares into swords, And your pruning hooks into spears;
Let the weak say, “I am a mighty man. ……..The LORD roars from Zion,And utters His voice from Jerusalem, And the heavens and the earth tremble. But the LORD is a refuge for His people And a stronghold to the sons of Israel. – Joel 3 : 10, 16
Scriptures Information about gathering together ourselves:
AND HE SAID: GATHER YOURSELVES TOGETHER (HE’ASEFU)… ASSEMBLE YOURSELVES, AND HEAR (XLIX, 1 f.). GATHER YOURSELVES TOGETHER from the land of Egypt, and ASSEMBLE YOURSELVES into Raameses; GATHER YOURSELVES TOGETHER from [the exile of] the ten tribes, and ASSEMBLE YOURSELVES to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. He thus commanded them to show honour to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.1 R. Aha interpreted [the word HE’ASEFU], ‘Purify yourselves,’ as in the verse, And they gathered themselves together… and they purified themselves (Neh. XII, 28 ff.).2 The Rabbis say: He warned them against dissension, bidding them, Be ye all one assembly. Thus it says, And thou, son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it: For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions (Ezek. XXXVII, 16). ‘ His companion ‘ is written: when the children of Israel unite in one band, then they may prepare themselves for redemption. For what follows this? And I will make them one nation in the land, etc. (ib. 22).(Gen. Rabbah XCVIII:2)
The Midrash Rabbah here is making a drash on the two phrases GATHER YOURSELVES TOGETHER and ASSEMBLE YOURSELVES, applying this as a type of their future reunion and redemption (as seen in Ezekiel 37) The Midrash Rabbah also teaches that the Gentile nations will be blessed by the last days restoration of the Ten Tribes by virtue of their having been scattered among them:
As it is written: Then Ya‘akov called for his sons and said, “Gather yourselves together, and I will tell you what will happen to you in the LAST DAYS – Gen 49:1
And not for the nation alone, but so that he might gather into one the scattered children of Most High – John 11 : 52 – 53
I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. -Jeremiah 23:3
So now Most High says —he formed me in the womb to be his servant,to bring Ya‘akov back to him,to have Isra’el gathered to him,so that I will be honored in the sight of Most High, my Elohim having become my strength — he has said, “It is not enough that you are merely my servant to raise up the tribes of Ya‘akov and restore the offspring of Isra’el. I will also make you a light to the nations,so my salvation can spread to the ends of the earth. -Isaiah 49 : 5-6
In that day the Most High will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the sea. —Isaiah 11:11
This amazing promise refers to the Children of Abraham being banished to Africa, Asia, and the islands of the sea—the Bible calls them the Outcasts of Israel.The tribes of Reuben, Simeon, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Ephraim, and Manasseh make up what is now referred to as “The Lost Tribes of Israel.”
Rabbi Shaul (Acts 26:6) protests to Agrippa that he is accused “for the hope of the promise made unto our fathers, unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving Most High, hope to come,” while James addresses his epistle to “the twelve tribes which are scattered about” (1:1). The only opposing voice to this otherwise universal view is found in the Mishnah. R. Eliezer expresses his view that they will eventually return and “after darkness is fallen upon the ten tribes light shall thereafter dwell upon them,” The Messiah was referring to Isaiah 27:13; “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Most High in the holy mount at Jerusalem.”
The term “great trumpet” is mentioned: Isaiah 27:13 and Matthew 24:30-31 and both speak of the re-gathering of Israel. And in that day a great trumpet will sound. Those who were perishing in Assyria and those who were exiled in Egypt will come and worship the Most High on the holy mountain in Jerusalem.
This is what the Messiah was speaking of in Matthew 24:30-31 where he said; “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he [Most High Ancient one — see Isaiah 27:12-13] shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
Israelite’s go to war with the Midianites:
B’nei Yisrael wages war against Midian, kill Bilam, the five Midianite kings and all the men. Moshe is upset that the women were taken captive since they were catalysts for the immoral behavior of the Jewish people. Moshe therefore rebukes the officers. The spoils of war are counted and apportioned. The commanding officers report to Moshe that there was not one casualty among B’nei Yisrael. They bring an offering that is taken by Moshe and Elazar and placed in the Ohel Mo’ed (Tent of Meeting).
The Tribes of Gad and Reuven, who own large quantities of livestock, petition Moshe to allow them to remain east of the Jordan and not receive a portion of land west of the Jordan River. They explain that the land east of the Jordan is quite suitable grazing land for their livestock. Moshe’s initial response is that this request will discourage the rest of B’nei Yisrael, and that it is akin to the sin of the spies. They assure Moshe that they will first help conquer Israel, and only then will they go back to their families and homes on the eastern side of the Jordan River. Moshe grants their request on condition that they uphold their part of the deal to fight with all of Israel until it is conquered.
G-d demands that the Israelites go to war with the Midianites on account of Baal Pe’or. God spoke to Moses, saying: “Avenge the Israelite people on the Midianites; then you shall be gathered to your kin” (Numbers 30:31). This is to be Moses’ last battle, a war of vengeance. The war is a success. No Israelite soldiers dies. The Israelite soldiers capture a bounty of spoils – cattle, herds of sheep and goats, human captives and their possessions – yet Moses is not satisfied:
Moses became angry with the officers of the army, the officers of thousands and the officers of hundreds, who had come back from the military campaign. Moses said to them, “You have spared every female! Yet they are the very ones who, at the bidding of Balaam, induced the Israelites to trespass against G-d in the matter of Pe’or, so that G-d’s community was struck by the plague. Now, therefore, slay every male among the dependents, and slay also every woman who has known a man carnally; but spare every female dependent who has not had carnal relations with a man. -Numbers 31:13-18
Avenge the vengeance of the children of Israel upon the Midianites – Numbers 31:2
The Hebrew word midian means “strife.” Midian is the essence of divisiveness, which is the root of all evil. Thus our sages speak of “groundless hatred” as the greatest of evils. In truth, all strife is groundless hatred: the so-called “grounds” that people and nations have for hating and destroying each other.
Why only upon the Midianites, but not the Moabites (who also sent their daughters to cause Israel to sin)? Because the Moabites got involved because they feared Israel (cf. Numbers 22:2–6); but the Midianites entered a fight that was not theirs.
Another explanation: G-d said to spare the Moabites because of “two fine creatures which I shall extract from them”—Ruth the Moabite and Naamah the Ammonite (wife of King Solomon). –Rashi
So before the people of Israel could conquer the “seven nations” that inhabited the land of Canaan—which represent the seven negative traits of the heart—they first had to destroy Midian, which is their source and cause. This is also why the destruction of Midian could be achieved only under the leadership of Moses, who embodied the traits of utter self-abnegation,harmony and truth. –Maamar Heichaltzu 5659
Moses spoke to the people: “Arm yourselves . . . to take G-d’s vengeance on Midian” – Numbers 31:3
G-d had said to Moses, “Avenge the vengeance of the children of Israel upon the Midianites”; yet Moses said: “To take G-d’s vengeance on Midian”!
G-d said to Israel: It is you who have an account to settle with them, for they caused Me to harm you. But Moses said: Master of the worlds! If we had been uncircumcised, or idol worshippers, or had denied the mitzvot, the Midianites would not have hated us. They persecute us only on account of the Torah and the precepts which You have given us! Consequently the vengeance is Yours; and so I say: “To take G-d’s vengeance on Midian.” –Midrash Tanchuma
“To take G-d’s vengeance on Midian”—for whoever stands against Israel, stands against G-d. –Rashi
G-d sees the war on Midian as avenging Israel, for G-d’s foremost concern is for His people; the people of Israel see the war as avenging G-d, for they are concerned only with the honor of G-d. –The Chassidic Masters
A thousand of every tribe, twelve thousand armed for war -Numbers 31:5
Moses wanted to demonstrate to them that it is not the number of troops or their arms that determines victory or defeat, but their worthiness. For Zimri had caused the death of 24,000 without a single sword or armament; while they, numbering only 12,000, would defeat the far more numerous Midianites, “and not a single one of them was lost” -Numbers 31:49.
Moses sent them to the war . . . them and Pinchas the son of Elazar the priest – Numbers 31:6
G-d charged Moses with the mission, yet he sends others! But since Moses had grown up in the land of Midian, he thought: It is not right that I should punish one who has done good to me. The proverb says: “A well from which you drank, cast not a stone into it.” –Midrash Rabbah
Moses sent . . . Pinchas the son of Elazar the priest – Numbers 31:6
Why did he send Pinchas? He said: “The one who began the mitzvah shall finish it.” It was Pinchas who turned away G-d’s wrath from Israel and smote the Midianite woman; let him finish the sacred task. –Midrash Rabbah; Rashi
They warred against Midian, as G-d commanded Moses – Numbers 31:7
When laying siege on a city to conquer it, we do not surround it from all four sides, but only from three sides, leaving a way to escape for anyone who wishes to flee for his life. As it is written: “They warred against Midian, as G-d commanded Moses”; it has been handed down by tradition that this is what G-d had commanded him.(Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings and Their Wars 6:7)
Also Balaam the son of Beor they slew with the sword – Numbers 31:8
What was Balaam doing in Midian? Rabbi Jonathan said: He went to receive his reward for the twenty-four thousand Israelites whose destruction he had caused [by his advice to entice them with the daughters of Moab and Midian]. . . . This is what people say: “When the camel went to demand horns, they cut off the ears he had.” –Talmud, Sanhedrin 106a
If the children of Gad and the children of Reuben will pass with you over the Jordan . . . – Numbers 32:29
Rabbi Meir said: Every stipulation which is not like that of the children of Gad and the children of Reuben is not legally binding. For it is written: “And Moses said unto them: If the children of Gad and the children of Reuben will pass with you over the Jordan, [. . . you shall give them the land of Gilead for a possession],” and it is also written, “But if they will not pass over with you armed, then they shall have possessions among you in the Land of Canaan.” (Thus, both sides of the condition have to be spelled out: if the condition is fulfilled, then so-and-so will be the case, but if the stipulation is not fulfilled, then so-and so will be the case.) –(Talmud, Kiddushin 61a)
And half the tribe of Manasseh – Numbers 32:33
Because Manasseh caused the sons of Jacob to rend their clothes by hiding Joseph’s goblet in Benjamin’s sack (Genesis 44:13), his tribe was rent in two, half receiving its portion in the lands east of the Jordan, and half on the west.(Midrash Rabbah)
Moses gave the Gilead to Machir the son of Manasseh. . . . And Yair the son of Manasseh went and conquered their villages . . . – Numbers 32:40–41
We learned: Yair the son of Manasseh and Machir the son of Manasseh were born in the days of Jacob, and did not die before Israel entered the Land. (But does it not say, “And there was not left a man of [the generation of the desert], save Caleb the son of Yefuneh and Joshua the son of Nun”? Said Rav Acha bar Yaakov: The decree was directed neither against those under twenty years of age, nor against those over sixty years of age.) –Talmud, Bava Batra 121b
When Israel arrived by the Jordan at Jericho, their wanderings had come to an end, so G-d gave Moses, regarding their imminent entry into the Promised Land.
The very first command was to “drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you.… Take possession of the land and settle it, for I have given you that land to possess.” -Numbers 33:52–53
“No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation (Yeshuah) and your gates Praise.” -Isaiah 60:18
MATOS – By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum
Torah Reading: MATOS: Numbers 30:2-32:42
This Shabbos we complete our annual study of the book of BAMIDBAR (Numbers) by reading its two lengthy closing parshiyos, MATOS and MAS’EY, together. In Israel this year (which is a leap year) each of these two parshiyos is read on its own Shabbos, but in the Diaspora the two parshiyos are being read on one Shabbos (as happens in most years) in order to ensure that we begin reading the book of DEVARIM (Deuteronomy), with its central theme of TESHUVAH — coming home to G-d — on the last Shabbos prior to the fast of 9th Av commemorating the destruction of the Holy Temple.
As discussed in earlier commentaries, Genesis is the “head” of the Torah, Exodus the “arms” (the “outstretched arm” of redemption), Leviticus the “heart”, Numbers the “legs” (journeying through the wilderness to reach the Land) and Deuteronomy the “mouth”, trumpeting forth: “Hear O Israel!” Coming at the end of the book of Numbers, these two parshiyos show us the Children of Israel at the end of their journeying in the wilderness, assembled in the plains of Moab, facing Jericho, poised to enter the Land. It was here that Moses delivered his final discourses, which make up the book of Deuteronomy. The various Messianic themes and allusions in this week’s double parshah make them appropriate reading for the central Shabbos of the Three Week period of mourning for the lost Temples, which is a preparation for the Restoration quickly in our days. [KINOT, “lamentations” = TIKUN, “rectification.]
The uniqueness of the prophecy of Moses is seen in the opening words of parshas MATOS introducing the laws of vows. “And Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the Children of Israel saying, THIS is the word that G-d has commanded.” (Numbers 30:2). There are various levels of prophecy, which may come through “a clear glass” or through a “dim glass”. The latter is the case in countless verses in the prophetic literature where the prophet says “KO — So said HaShem”, indicating that the words of the prophecy are LIKE — resemble — the actual Truth, yet they are merely similar, an evocation of something that in itself is actually much higher. Moses himself also prophesied using the comparative expression KO, as in Exodus 11:4. However, as Rashi points out (in his comment on Numbers 30:2), unique among all the prophets, Moses also used the expression ZEH HADAVAR — “THIS is the word”, the actual word of G-d. For Moses revealed the very P’NIMIUT, the “inner essence” of G-d, like no other prophet.
WORDS AND COMMITMENTS
An important theme in Parshas MATOS is the care with which we must use words and language because of their very great power — language is the “glass” that may either reflect or obscure the truth. “When a man wants to make a vow to HaShem or to swear an oath placing a prohibition upon himself, he must not profane his word. He must do according to all that comes forth from his mouth.” (Numbers 30:3).
We live in an age when streams of verbiage flow forth at us in such quantities from all directions — billboards, papers, magazines, TV, radio, Internet and on and on — that we can easily become almost completely desensitized to words, their meaning and importance. We take it for granted that politicians make promises and undertakings which they have no intention of keeping; that “experts” shoot forth with torrents of instant comment which are as enduring as rotten fruit; that commercial advertising has turned the destruction of language into an art-form; that the media are filled with every kind of irreverence and unholiness.
As a medicine against this desensitization, the Torah asks us to think hard about the words we bring forth from our own mouths, and particularly the personal commitments we make. While we often focus on language as the means of communication with each other, with ourselves and with G-d, the concept of the vow is one where we use our G-d-given gift of speech to elevate ourselves spiritually. One might take a vow to dedicate something of worth to the Temple or charity, or to erect a personal boundary and abstain from some undesirable behavior that has proved a pitfall for oneself and others. The father of the vow was Jacob, when he came to Mount Moriah and had his dream of the ladder. In the morning, he set up a stone, the prototype Temple Altar, and vowed that if G-d would protect him and provide his needs, he would make this the House of G-d and tithe all he received (Genesis 28:20). [David the Messiah also swore and vowed he would not rest until he found a place and a dwelling-place for G-d, the Holy Temple — Psalms 132:1-5.]
Because of the extreme seriousness of an oath or vow to G-d, the Torah Codes advise us not to take actual oaths or vows unless we are thoroughly conversant with the intricacies of their laws. Much of the discussion in the relevant Talmudic tractates of Nedarim, Nazir and Shavuos is bound up with careful analyses of the meanings and implications of different kinds of phraseology. The larger part of the section on vows in our parshah is taken up with special laws that apply to vows made by an unmarried, betrothed or married woman, which may be nullified by her father and/or husband. This is because vows she may make even with the best intentions could cause complications in her domestic life that might affect others (e.g. if she were to vow to abstain from certain foods or not to use cosmetics, etc.). Her freedom is circumscribed by her responsibilities to others, and the Torah gives her father and/or husband the last word on whether to uphold her vows. Indeed we should not make vows or commitments that can affect others detrimentally. The point is not to deter us from making commitments, but rather to impress upon us the care with which we should go about making them and the seriousness with which we must uphold them.
THE WAR AGAINST MIDIAN
It is significant that the final war fought by the Children of Israel prior to their entry into the land was the war for sexual morality — to rectify the degradation of the sin of BAAL PE’OR as described at the end of parshas BALAK. The crafty Bilaam knew that sexual sin is the undoing of the holiness of Israel and the Midianites took his advice to entice the Israelites to take the short road from immorality to idolatry. The true holiness of the Land of Israel can be revealed only when the Land is cleansed of sexual immorality and degradation. [Similarly, Jacob went back to Beit El only after vengeance for the rape of Dinah and cleansing his house of idolatry, Genesis ch. 34-5.] It was to bring moral cleansing that 1000 warriors from each of the Twelve Tribes went out against the Midianites, together with Pinchas, who was weighed against all of them. Pinchas was the hero of moral cleansing ever since he killed the Prince of the Tribe of Shimon and his Midianite woman.
The warriors return from this war with war booty, which is documented in detail in our Parshah. When we overcome the war against immorality, we can reclaim the lost booty — the energy that was degraded to the level of the animal, and which can now be elevated and used in pursuit of the holy. However, what Israel takes from the nations must be purified. It was necessary to kill the Midianite males — the concept of the active MASHPIAH (source of influence) — for the active immoral influence had to be destroyed. However, those women who had not “known” a male could be saved: that which is receptive to the Israelite influence can be reclaimed. The material wealth taken from the Midianites also had to be purified. A percentage had to be dedicated to the Temple, and even that which could be released for personal use had to be purified.
Our parshah is thus an important source for the laws of purification of vessels of metal, wood or other materials that had previously been in the possession of and used by non-Israelites (Numbers 31:21-4). “Every thing (literally, word) that can come into fire you must pass through the fire and it will be pure, but it must be purified with the waters of NIDAH, whileall that cannot come into fire you must pass through the water.” From this are derived the laws of kashering utensils that have absorbed forbidden substances, and the laws of immersing vessels in a kosher mikveh. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (Likutey Moharan I:4) points to the esoteric meaning of these laws, which teach how to repent for our sins. If we sinfully took our holy powers and energies and burned them up in the fires of animal lust, we must take “what came into fire” and “pass it through the fire”. We must repent by confessing our sins with words of fire, burning them up with holy intensity, the fire of our passion to now rectify and elevate our energies. And so too, the pure waters of the Torah, the mikveh, purify the vessel, the body.
THE SONS OF REUVEN AND GAD’S CONDITION
Following the war with Midian, the account of the request of the tribes of Reuven and Gad to take their share of the Land in the conquered territories EAST of the River Jordan and Moses’ response is written Torah proof of the Children of Israel’s possession of these territories in the true “final settlement”.
Were the Sons of Reuven and Gad really more interested in pasture-lands for their cattle than having a share in the Promised Land? The Aramaic Targum of Onkelos reveals what is concealed beneath the Torah verse detailing the locations east of the Jordan upon which the Sons of Reuven and Gad had set their eyes. These include MOUNT NEVO, which the Targum informs us is the burial-place of Moses (Numbers 32:3). That was what the sons of Reuven and Gad had set their eyes on. They already knew what Breslovers know about the grave of Rabbi Nachman, what Lubavitchers have learned about the Ohel of the Rebbe, what those who frequent Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s gravesite in Meiron or the resting place of the Avot (Patriarchs) in the holy city of Hevron know. The greatest true wealth is our connection with the Tzaddikim who are the true Foundations of the Universe. The graves of the true Tzaddikim are points where the physical interconnects with the spiritual, and where we can make a connection with G-d’s truth.
Even so, Moses scolded the Sons of Reuven and Gad for wanting to stay out of the Land, suggesting that they were like the Spies whose perverted use of language led the hearts of the Israelites astray. Coming after the laws of purified language — vows and oaths — at the beginning of our parshah, Moses’ binding of the Sons of Reuven and Gad with a detailed set of conditions is another lesson in the precision with which we must use language. We have to make commitments, and we have to keep them. We must take care with the way we formulate our commitments, and care to carry them out.
The Sons of Reuven and Gad were committed to supporting their brother Israelites in conquering the Land. This should serve as a model for those who reside outside the Land, whose share in the Land is strengthened by giving support to those who live in it and fight the war there every day.
Parshas MATOS concludes with a detailed account of the territories given by Moses to the tribes of Reuven, Gad and half of Menasheh east of the River Jordan. These include all of the mountain and valley areas from north of the River Arnon, which flows into Yam HaMelach (the “Dead” Sea) up to Chavot Yair, which are the lands south east of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee).
TORAH: MAS’EI -By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum
Torah Reading: MAS’EI: Numbers 33:1-36:13.
Already in MATOS when Moses castigated the Sons of Reuven and Gad with being like the Ten Spies, the theme of Moses’ reproof enters the Torah, and it continues in MAS’EY and in the book of Deuteronomy. After the events of the forty years wandering, which we have studied in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, the time has come to begin to review the lessons and reduce them to their essentials.
MAS’EY begins with a review of the forty years wandering. On the surface, the list of encampments and journeyings seems prosaic. However, the second Targum on the Torah, that of Rabbi Yonasan ben Uziel, disciple of Hillel, fills in much of the moral significance of the different staging posts in those difficult years, showing that the list itself is a form of reproof. It teaches us that there are times when we must look back, review and draw conclusions and lessons from the past. This is particularly necessary when we stand on the brink of new challenges, as in the case of the Children of Israel, who stood poised to conquer the Land.
Included in the account of the wanderings is a reference to the death of Aaron the High Priest, specifying the date of his ascent to the mountain to die — the first day of the fifth month, which is the month of Av. This is a reminder to us that the present year is beginning to draw to a close, with only two months to go before the Day of Judgment, Rosh HaShanah, the New Year. As we proceed in the period of Repentance (the Three Weeks, followed by Elul and Tishri) we should take time to review our lives and reflect on where we are trying to go. This way we will be prepared for the challenges of the coming year — the Conquest of the Land.
THE BOUNDARIES OF THE LAND AND ITS CONQUEST
Parshas MAS’EY provides the detailed topography of the boundaries of the Land of Israel, prefixed by G-d’s commandment to the Children of Israel to destroy all the evil influences in the Land to make it a place fit for the exalted mission instituted by the Fathers of the World, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For Israel, with Jerusalem at its center and its eternal capital, is to be the source of Torah and Light for all the nations. “For the Torah will go forth from Zion and the Word of HaShem from Yerushalayim”. The Torah warns clearly that unless all the evil influences are removed from the Land, they will be “like pins in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they will persecute you over the land in which you are dwelling” (Numbers 33:55).
The Boundaries of the Land are given as a COMMANDMENT (Numbers 34:2). While nobody doubts that the true Land of Israel includes all the territories west of the River Jordan, few are aware of where the southern and northern borders of the biblical Promised Land actually are.
The final settlement of Israel as prophesied in Ezekiel 47:13-21. Any “settlement” that does not take this into account is doomed to ultimate failure, for “the G-d’s counsel is what will stand” (Proverbs 19:21).
Of course the Land will only become Israel’s without contest when Israel will fulfill its part of the Conditions of G-d’s Covenant to give them the Land. (The section in MATOS about the Conditions with which Moses bound the Sons of Reuven and Gad is also a lesson about Conditions, to which Moses returns again and again in his discourses in Deuteronomy: “If you will do this. and if you will not.”)
THE LEVITICAL CITIES AND THE CITIES OF REFUGE
Since the Levites did not have a share in the Land, they were given forty-two cities of their own up and down the Land together with all the necessary surrounding areas. The Levitical Cities indicate the distinctive nature of the Land of Israel in contrast to all other lands. It’s social geography is centered upon a network of cities where people are free from the immediate requirement to make a living (the Levites received tithes) in order to devote themselves to the study and teaching of G-d’s Law. Thus everyone in the Land is always near a center of study and near to someone they can ask for guidance.
The Torah’s abhorrence for killing and murder is expressed in the portion that gives the laws of unintentional manslaughter and deliberate murder (Numbers 35:9ff). Not only has our world become desensitized to language, as discussed above. It has also been desensitized to the evil of killing and murder, which are openly celebrated be terrorists as “religious acts”, while the TV and movies provide an endless diet of violence to the population.
The spilling of blood is a crime against the Land, and the holiness of the Land of Israel will only shine again when we can cleanse ourselves of this terrible scourge and re-establish the Law of the Torah, which outshines and transcends all manmade laws. The Torah not only teaches the evil of killing and murder but has no compunction about imposing all necessary sanctions in order to eliminate them, including the death penalty. Even one who had committed an unintentional manslaughter had to hide himself away from the rest of society in a city of refuge, unlike today, where killers with blood on their hands are released from jail and celebrated as heroes.
“And you shall not pollute the Land in which you dwell that I dwell in its midst, for I am HaSheM dwelling among the Children of Israel” (Numbers 35:34). Speedily in our days. Amen.
Shabbat Shalom!!! -Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
Haftarot Matot-Masei – Jeremiah 1:1-2:28; 4:1-2
This week’s haftarot are from Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a prophet sent to declare the faithfulness of HaShem . Jeremiah urged the people to listen to his message: “Hear the word of the Lord (devar HaShem), O House of Jacob, every clan of the House of Israel.”
Jeremiah begins this week’s Haftorah by telling Israel that they have abandoned Hashem. The prophet asks on behalf of Hashem “What wrong did your ancestors find in me that they have abandoned me?” The Jewish people didn’t say “Where is Hashem who took us out of the land of Egypt, and brought us safely through the desert, into a country with farmland that produced all the food and wealth we needed?” The Kohanim didn’t say, “Where is your G-d?” The Prophets prophesied via Ba’al (a Cananite Pagan deity) false information. Hashem is asking, “What is going on here? Did everyone forget our agreement?” Hashem then continues and says “Go look around, has any nation ever exchanged a living G-d for a false G-d?” Jeremiah warns the Israelites that they have committed two great sins against Hashem. First they have abandoned Hashem and second they are worshipping idols. Jeremiah Warns the Jews that they will be severely punished. (2:14-19) He says that it is their own fault that they are being punished. Instead of relying on Hashem, you are relying on the Egyptians and the Assyrians for help. You will be in for a big surprise when they don’t come and help you when you need them. You Will Be Punished For Your Sins of Unfaithfulness. (2:19-28) Israel, you told me that you would be faithful, but you’re not. You worship in the Valley of Hinnom the G-d of Molech doing child sacrifices. Hashem says, “Stop looking around for allies to save you. Jeremiah warns the house of Israel, their kings, nobles, priests and prophets, that they will be ashamed like a thief that is caught. They talk to the wooden idols as is if they can hear them and they relate to stone as if they gave birth to them, while they turned their backs to me. Yet in their hour of disaster they come to me and say “Save us.” Judah’s Insincere Repentance (3:1-4) now where are your G-ds you made for yourself? Let them now come and save you in a time of disaster. As always the Haftorah ends on a happy note. Hashem’s Response (4:1) Hashem says “If you Israel, return to me and remove your abominations from before me, and you do not waver, if you swear “as Hashem lives in truth, justice and righteousness” the nations of the world will bless themselves by you and praise themselves through you.
“[When] you will return, O Israel,” says HaShem, “Return to Me; and [when] you will put away your abominations out of My sight, then you shall not be moved. And you shall swear, ‘HaShem lives,’ in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; the nations shall bless themselves in Him, and in Him they shall glory.”
Most Ancient Holy One of Israel, declares a One Nation Solution -“THE GREATER ISRAEL” . Let us not forget -With Ephraim/Multitude of Nations – Israel, Do Teshuva and through the process of heart circumcision (renewed covenant) under the Divine Mandate of Mashiach there can be Redemption for the house of Israel!
The purpose of our work in in gathering the exiles is to set up people of Truth can take part in redemption and will promote the unification of house of Israel and house of Judah in the gates of Jerusalem under one prince, that is under son of David so that the Shechina will return to the holy land of Israel and the lost tribes shall never be driven out of their land.
Blessed art Thou, HaShem, Who brings forth the Manifestation of Salvation. ( Baruch Atah HaShem, matzmiach keren Yeshuah )
We will see that the children of Israel return to Most High and Torah of Mashiach, And will hug in the Holy Land, and by obeying and listening the “VOICE of Most Ancient Holy One of Israel”, will bring offerings in a righteous way on the holy mountain and also bring the Ark of the covenant with pure heart in the right place ( i.e In Har HaBayit, on the foundation Stone) .
We will Welcome the son of David on Mount Zion, Jerusalem.
[ Ha Khadosh Baruch Hu – Baruch HaBa B’Shem Adonai ] – Gaddi, President, BeitYaaqov International.
Gaddi – President
A Servant of Most Ancient Holy one of Israel and Disciple of Yeshua HaMashiach