Weekly Reading Insights

Current Weekly Insights for:



1) Overview of this week's reading

2) From the Chassidic Rebbes

3) From the Masters of Kabbalah

4) One Law of Shabbat per week

5) (Pirkei Avot - Chapter of the Week)

1) From Rabbi Shaul Leiter, Director 
2) From Kabbalah

On our Kabbalah-site-in-progress:
3) Lengthy insights from the holy ARI of Safed!
4) Short insights from the ZOHAR
5) An in-depth essay from mystical Chassidic sources

For mystical and other insights for the Shavuot festival, go to holidays and kabbala and Shoot the Rabbi. You will also appreciate stories and humor and sports.

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Overview of the Weekly Reading: Matot/Massai
To be read on the Shabbat of 26 Tammuz, 5762 (July 6)

Torah: Numbers 30:2-36:13
Haftorah: Jeremiah 2:4-28, 3:4, 4:1-2 (2ndt of 3 "Haftorahs of Punishment")
Pirkei Avot: Chapter Two, (Chapter One outside of Israel)

Stats:Matot contains 1 positive mitzvot and 1 prohibitive mitzvot. Among the Weekly Readings,
ranks 24 out of 54 in number of verses, 29 in number of words, and 30 in number of letters
Massai contains 2 positive mitzvot and 4 prohibitive mitzvot. Among the Weekly Readings,
ranks 12 out of 54 in number of verses, 32 in number of words, and 28 in number of letters

Matot (Numbers 30:2-32:42), opens with laws concerning vows and their annulment. Next, G-d commands the Jews to take vengeance on Midian for having deliberately caused the Jews to sin. After killing, capturing, and plundering the Midianites, the Jews are instructed how to purify themselves and their spoil. The spoil is divided according to G-d's command, and a part is dedicated to the Sanctuary. Remarkably (31:48-49) not a single Jew was killed in the battle with Midian. Matot ends with the tribes of Reuven and Gad requesting to live in the conquered lands (that were not originally intended to be part of the Land of Israel). They are granted permission on condition that they only permanently settle this land after they help the rest of the Jews conquer and divide the Land of Israel on the opposite side of the Jordan River.
Massai (Numbers 33:1-36:13*) begins listing the 42 different journeys the Jews traversed during their 40 years in the desert. Then, G-d commands that after the Jews cross the Jordan to conquer the land of Canaan, they must completely drive out the inhabitants and destroy all idolatry. The Land is then to be divided according to tribes and families through a special type of Divinely conducted lottery system. G-d also defines the specific borders of the Land and lists leaders from each tribe who will help parcel out the Land. The Levites are to be given 48 residential cities. These include 6 cities of refuge-havens to which the accidental murderer escapes from the blood avenger, a relative of the killed. Here are detailed many laws concerning intentional and unintentional bloodshed. The parsha ends with the tribe of Menashe complaining that their tribal inheritance would be diminished due to the daughters of Tzelofchad inheriting their father's portion. The sisters are told that if they want to keep the inheritance, they must marry only men from their own tribe ensuring that their sons who inherit the land would also be from the tribe of Menashe.
*With the last verse, we complete the book of Bamidbar (Numbers). Chazak, Chazak, Venitchazek!

FROM THE CHASSIDIC REBBES (V:42.43-62/Matot/Massai)


"To execute the vengeance of G-d on Midian." (31:3)

The name "Midian" comes from the root "madon," meaning quarrel and strife. Midian symbolizes contention and unwarranted hatred. The war against Midian is truly "the vengeance of G-d." For, there is nothing so opposed to G-d as dissention and needless hatred.

(Sefer HaMaamarim)


"Aaron the Priest went up onto Mount Hor at the command of G-d and died there... in the fifth month on the first of the month." (33:38)

Our Sages said, "the death of the righteous is equal to the burning of [the Holy Temple." The fifth month is the month of Av, the month in which the Holy Temple was burned and destroyed. Another connection between Aaron's death and the burning of the Temple is as follows: The Second Temple, in particular, was destroyed because of causeless hatred. The remedy for causeless hatred is unwarranted love, which was exemplified by Aaron. Aaron "loved peace, pursued peace, loved all creatures and brought them closer to the Torah."

(Likutei Sichot)


FROM THE MASTERS OF KABBALAH (O:42.43-62/Matot/Massai)

Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of Ohr HaChaim: the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
The holy Rabbi Chayim ben Moses Attar was born in Sale, Western Morocco, on the Atlantic in 1696. His immortal commentary on the Five Books Of Moses, Or Hachayim, was printed in Venice in 1741, while the author was on his way to the Holy Land. He acquired a reputation as a miracle worker, hence his title "the holy," although some apply this title only to his Torah commentary.


An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter


Weekly Insights: As this week's portion name, why did the Torah choose to use the word 'Matos'-tribe-rather than the common word, 'Shevet'? 'Matos' also means a staff of wood which is hard and strong, and is separated from the tree, its source. On the other hand, the word 'shevet' refers to a soft and supple branch that is still attached to the tree. The Tzemach Tzedek explains that much of the portion speaks about oaths. A person could swear to refrain from something physical in order to set up extra boundaries between him or herself and the world. This was not done lightly, rather only when required in order to sanctify and separate the person even from things that are generally permissible. We live in a time when not just boundaries between countries are falling down, but also boundaries between people, and even the boundaries between good and bad. The Torah reminds us that we need boundaries. For this divine service a special strength and unbending total focus is required. Parshas Matos allows us to draw on this special dimension when we relate to the world.

Why is this week's second portion called 'Masai'-journeys? The Lubavitcher Rebbe writes that every Jewish person must know that he or she is constantly required to be on a journey. We must continuously be moving upward spiritually from one level to the next higher level. Why is the name plural, 'journeys'? To remind us that there is not just the soul but the body also, and that both must make the journey. In fact, this is the challenge. The soul must convince the body that it is in the body's best interset to stay on the proper track. Sound impossible? It is told that the Rebbe Rashab was once asked to specify the Torah source for a certain practice he did. The Rashab answered that at that moment he did not remember the source, but he was certain that there was a source because he had long educated his body to accomplish its needs only according to what is allowed in the code of Jewish law. It is not easy but if we make the effort we will succeed.

This week is not only Shabbos Mevorchim, it is also Shabbos Chazak when we finish the 4th book of the Torah, Bamidbar. Actually, we will celebrate finishing the entire Torah this week because the 5th book, Devarim, is known as 'Mishneh Torah', the repetition of the Torah because it is primarily a review of parts of the previous books (Tractate M'gillah, 32b). In synagogue on Shabbos morning, upon concluding Matos and Masai, we will simultaneously proclaim "chazak chazak v'nitchazek!" We thrice say the word 'chazak'-strength-to remind us that there is something more than the unbending strength of Matos, and the visionary power of Masai. We arrive at the level when we have joined both strengths together. This is the message of the entire Torah: to be unbending in relation to the world, and yet to always continue the journey.



For mystical and other insights for the Pesach festival, go to holidays and kabbala and Shoot the Rabbi.
You will also appreciate stories and <humor and sports.

P.S. Each week, I will try to bring one Jewish law to encourage everyone, including myself, to learn more halacha. Try giving over these laws at your Shabbos table weekly. You will be surprised at how much ground you will cover. Here is the one for this week.

A law of Shabbat

Shabbat Law of the Week, # 161:

In the recitation of Grace after Meals on Shabbat one should mention the holiness of the day in the third blessing, "build Jerusalem". The phrasing for this rememberance is "re'tzeh v'ha'cha'litztenu, etc."

(Laws translated & adapted from Kitzur Halachot; pub. Oholei Shem-Lubavitch, 1992. pg.186.)

previous Shabbat Laws


Previous insights for Weekly Readings:

 Shmot 5762Vayikra 5762 Bemidbar 
 Va'era 5762Tzav 5762Naso 
 Bo 5762Shemini 5762Beha'alotecha 
 Beshallach 5762Tazriah 5762Shelach 
 Yitro 5762Metsorah 5762Korach 
 Mishpatim 5762Acharei Mot 5762Chukat 
 Trumah 5762Kedoshim 5762Balak 
 Tetsaveh 5762Emor 5762  
 Ki Tisa 5762Behar 5762  
 Vayakhel/Pekudei 5762Bechukotai 5762  
Vayigash 5762    
Vayechi 5762    
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