Overview of the
Weekly Reading: Matot/Massai
To be read on the Shabbat of 26 Tammuz, 5762 (July 6)
Haftorah: Jeremiah 2:4-28, 3:4, 4:1-2 (2ndt
of 3 "Haftorahs of Punishment")
Avot: Chapter Two, (Chapter One outside of Israel)
contains 1 positive mitzvot and 1 prohibitive mitzvot. Among the
Matot ranks 24 out of 54 in number of verses,
29 in number of words, and 30 in number of letters
contains 2 positive mitzvot and 4 prohibitive mitzvot. Among the
Massai ranks 12 out of 54 in number of verses,
32 in number of words, and 28 in number of letters
(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
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
"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."
FROM THE MASTERS OF KABBALAH
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.
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.
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.
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.