Parsha

For the week ending 14 July 2007 / 28 Tammuz 5767

Parshat Matot - Masei

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair - www.seasonsofthemoon.com
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Overview

Matot

Moshe teaches the rules and restrictions governing oaths and vows especially the role of a husband or father in either upholding or annulling a vow. Bnei Yisrael wage war against Midian. They kill the five Midianite kings, all the males and Bilaam. Moshe is upset that women were taken captive. They were catalysts for the immoral behavior of the Jewish People. He rebukes the officers. The spoils of war are counted and apportioned. The commanding officers report to Moshe that there was not one casualty among Bnei 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 enter the Land of Israel. 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 Bnei 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 homes on the eastern side of the Jordan River. Moshe grants their request on condition that they uphold their part of the deal.

Masei

The Torah names all 42 encampments of Bnei Yisrael on their 40-year journey from the Exodus until the crossing of the Jordan River into Eretz Yisrael. G-d commands Bnei Yisrael to drive out the Canaanites from Eretz Yisrael and to demolish every vestige of their idolatry. Bnei Yisrael are warned that if they fail to rid the land completely of the Canaanites, those who remain will be "pins in their eyes and thorns in their sides." The boundaries of the Land of Israel are defined, and the tribes are commanded to set aside 48 cities for the levi'im, who do not receive a regular portion in the division of the Land. Cities of refuge are to be established: Someone who murders unintentionally may flee there. The daughters of Tzelafchad marry members of their tribe so that their inheritance will stay in their own tribe. Thus ends the Book of Bamidbar/Numbers, the fourth of the Books of The Torah.

Insights

Nowhere Man

“Six cities of refuge that you shall provide for a murderer” (35:6)

The greatest gift to man is life.

There can be no greater present than the very fact of our existence. When G-d created the world, when He created life, He did so in His own image. Just as He lives, so too we partake of that ultimate life, that ultimate existence. Nothing is closer to G-d than life itself, and nothing contradicts His will more certainly than the taking of life, even inadvertently.

G-d is known as HaMakom, literally “The Place.” He is the place of all existence; the place of life itself. With Him is the source of life, and only with Him. Of every agency that He has given over to His emissaries, the key of life stays immutably with its Source.

Thus, it can be understood that someone who removes life from this world, even inadvertently, has removed himself from existence. He literally has no place; he has expunged himself from reality, from existence.

It is for this reason that the Torah designates special ‘places’ for those who commit manslaughter. Without these special places there would be nowhere for them in the world.

  • Source: Based on the Chidushei HaRim in Iturei Torah

Everywhere Man

“Aharon went up to Mount Hor at the word of G-d and died there in the fortieth year …in the fifth month on the first of the month.” (33:38)

A man of peace is missed by all.

Nothing leaves a mark on the world as much as the departure from it of someone who loves peace.

In the entire Torah the specific date of the departure from this world of a tzaddik is never mentioned — with one exception.

Why does the Torah not specify the date of a righteous person’s parting?

“Your righteousness is like the mountains of G-d,” G-d’s kindness and righteousness are as prominent as the great mountains; “Your judgments are a vast deep.” His judgment, however, is as hidden as the deep.

The destruction of the Holy Temple took place on the Ninth of Av but its date was hidden from the prophet Yechezkhel so that he would not publicize the date of the Holy Temple’s destruction.

The day that a tzaddik dies is as ‘difficult’ for G-d as the day the Temple was destroyed. Just as G-d concealed the date of the destruction of the Temple, so too He did not broadcast the date of the death of a tzaddik.

With one exception.

“And the entire congregation saw that Aharon had passed away…” (Bamidbar 20:29)

Aharon pursued peace between husband and wife, between one person and another. This made an indelible impression on the Jewish People. The entire Jewish People felt the loss of Aharon.

Similarly it says, “And the Canaani heard… and they waged war on Yisrael.” (Bamidbar 21:1)

The Canaanim also heard about the death of Aharon; also from the day of Aharon’s passing, the Clouds of Glory departed (Ta’anit 9)

Thus both friend and foe, those who dwell beneath and those above, knew immediately that Aharon had passed to the next world.

And that fact was as blatant as a billboard.

  • Source: Divrei Shaul in Iturei Torah

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