Weekly Reading Insights: Mattot 5765


Overview of the Weekly Reading: Mattot

To be read on 23 Tamuz 5765 (July 30)

Torah: Numbers 30:2-32:42
Haftorah: Jeremiah 1:1-2:3 (First haftorah of affliction)

Pirkei Avot Chapter 1

Mattot is the 9th Reading out of 10 in Numbers and 42nd overall, and 29th out of 54 in overall length.

Mattot opens with laws concerning making vows and their annulment. Next, G-d commands the Jews to take vengeance on Midian for having deliberately caused them to sin. After killing, capturing, and plundering the Midianites, the Jews are commanded how to purify themselves and the spoil. The spoil is divided according to G-ds command, and a part is dedicated to the Sanctuary. Remarkably (31:48-49) not a single Jew was killed in the battle with Midian. Mattot 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 the rest of the Jews conquer and divide the Land of Israel on the opposite side of the Jordan River.


From the holy Zohar, teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Z:42-65/Mattot)

It is also written that the wise hearted women "spun with their hands". What is this "spinning"? Rabbi Yehuda said that they spun together strictness and mercy.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed (A:42-65/Mattot)

Now we will explain the idea of a vow. Just as Arich Anpin looks out and shines forth from its forehead of goodwill toward the forehead of Zeir Anpin and its intellect, so does Zeir Anpin look out toward the forehead of its Nukva in order to shine his three intelligences to her.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the "Ohr HaChaim". (S:42-65/Mattot)

The Kabbalists state that sanctity is the mystical foundation of spiritual ascent, whereas the kelipot are the mystical foundation of spiritual descent of a human being.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.


"Avenge the vengeance of the children of Israel against the Midianites, after which you will be gathered to your people." (31:2)
Moses was told by G-d to lead the children of Israel in their war of vengeance against the Midianites. Yet, when Moses told the Israelites about the war, he told them it was because of G-d's vengeance that they were fighting. Why? If the Israelites would have thought they were fighting for their own vengeance, after which Moses would be gathered to his people, i.e. die, they would have told Moses they could forgive the Midianites, thus lengthening Moses' life. But, when Moses told them they were fighting for G-d's vengeance, they had no choice but to go to war.
(Siftei Tzadikim)


from the Chabad Master series, produced by Rabbi Yosef Marcus for

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org


Mashiach will only determine their tribal lineage, that is, he will inform that "this one is of such-and-such a tribe." He will not pronounce on those presumed to be of legitimate ancestry that "this one is illegitimate and that one is a "slave"; for the law stipulates that once a family is intermixed [with the Jewish community at large] it remains intermixed.
(Maimonides' Mishna Torah, Laws of Kings Ch. 12)

[Reprinted with permission from L'Chaim Magazine (www.lchaim.org).]

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:42-65/Mattot)

The Lubavitcher Rebbe discusses the section of parashat Matot on oaths and how they are nullified. Traditionally, an oath would be a vow to not partake of some physical object or activity; for example, a person would vow not to drink wine for an allotted amount of time. According to Judaism, an oath is a means to come closer to G-d, something positive. But here's the question: isn't it enough what G-d, in His wisdom, has forbidden us to do? Why do we have to add more?

Let us look a bit deeper. The purpose of the Torah is to sanctify our lives. When a person benefits from something in the world (like eating) for the sake of Heaven, that object is transformed from mundane to holy. This is the purpose of the Creation: "To make a dwelling place for Him (G-d) in the lower worlds" (Tanchuma, Naso 16). From this perspective, how can we deny ourselves anything that the Torah permits?

If we are permitted to use something for the purpose of elevating it to holiness, why would someone take a vow and flee from this goal? We find the answer in the question. When a person is on the proper spiritual level, making oaths is not for him. His job is to elevate the physical; he has the ability, and it is inappropriate for him to run away from this G-d given purpose. For this reason we have found in Jewish tradition great righteous people who possessed material luxuries because they knew exactly how to elevate them to holiness and rescue them for divine service. On the other hand, a person who was seduced from the straight path, who is not certain that each and every action will be for the sake of Heaven, knows that he is not always capable of elevating the physical to it spiritual source.

Even worse, there is a distinct risk that those very actions will lower him deeper into the malaise of the world. Not only is it permissible, it is recommended to use oaths as a weapon to protect his spiritual level. If you find that one TV show leads to ten more, try none.

This principle also explains the prohibitions and fences that the Rabbis placed on the Jewish people through out all of the generations. While the Temple stood and broadcast its light of spiritual power, such additional fences were not required. With this elevated consciousness, the Jewish people were able to overcome all obstacles between them and the Almighty and to imbue the physical with holiness. However, with the destruction of the Temple, the darkness of exile shadowed the world. No more did the Jews have an extra boost to protect their high spiritual status. The Rabbis of that time stepped in with additional prohibitions and fences.

From all of this, we see that use of oaths suggests that the person is on a lower than required spiritual level. If such were not the case, he or she would not need this extra protection. This is the reason that only one who is on a higher level than the person who took the oath (like a parent in certain cases, or a qualified rabbi) has the power to nullify the oath. Additionally, they are even able to assist this person on a lower level to no longer need the oath. This will help that individual to live in the world without the crutch of vows and elevate physicality to holiness.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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