Torah Weekly - Parshat Matot/Masei
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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, because 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 which 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.
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. Hashem 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 Tzlofchad 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.
A GOLF LESSON
"Moshe wrote their goings forth according to their journeys at the bidding of Hashem, and these were the journeys according to their goings forth." (33:2)
Life is like a game of golf. You have to keep your eye on the ball.
This world is full of distractions - and distractions to distract you from the distractions. Take that wonder of technology, the computer, for example. If the computer had a motto it would be "You can waste your life saving time."
By the time you get the thing to do what it's supposed to do, you could have done it by hand five times over. But it's so neat to watch it disgorge all those im-personalized letters to all your closest friends!
Imagine you have just bought a new car. You climb behind the wheel. You insert the key into the ignition and with the sweetness of expectation gently turn the key preparing for the thrill of the engine purring into expensive life. Nothing happens. You try again. Again nothing. You pick up the phone. A heated conversation with the car dealer ensues. "Oh yes, sir, you need to come back to the store and buy a connecting pipe between the radiator and the crankcase!"
No-one would stand for such behavior. And yet us folk who have to deal with the computer take it as par-for-the-course when we find ourselves back in the store half an hour after buying a computer, needing some piece of software/hardware just to get the machine to flicker into life.
This world is full of distractions. However, apart from those distractions that we are forced to face, we actively seek others. Why do we allow distractions to dominate our lives?
Because we don't keep our eye on the ball.
We don't keep the end and purpose of our lives in focus at all times. Most of the time, we don't think about where we are going. We just want a change of scenery. New for the sake of new.
The essence of being Jewish is to know that there is Somewhere to go - and never to lose sight of how to get there. Never to mistake the ride for the road. The bow-and-arrow for the target. The means for the end.
"Moshe wrote their goings forth according to their journeys at the bidding of Hashem, and these were the journeys according to their goings forth."
The beginning of the sentence says "goings forth according to their journeys." At the end of the sentence, however, the order is reversed "...journeys according to their going forth." Why the change?
The first phrase expresses G-d's purpose for the Jewish People in their journey through the desert to their ultimate destination — Eretz Yisrael. The essence is the going forth, the target, the end-in-sight. Every step represents a step nearer to the intended goal. It is the destination that matters, not the journey.
The second part of the sentence describes the Jewish People's view of their journeying: The nature of the Human is impatience. Whenever they had been encamped for a while, the Jewish People would grow dissatisfied and restless to move on. From their perspective, the essence was to journey, to go, to get out. To seek new scenery. The end goal was less in their thoughts. Their purpose was not the destination - but the journey.
Anyone for golf?
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch
Yirmiyahu 2:4-2:28, 3:4
"Shimu Dvar Hashem" is the second in the "Three-of-Affliction" haftara trilogy read between 17 Tammuz and 9 Av. In it, Yirmiyahu laments the double wrong committed by the Jewish People: They have forsaken the Living G-d, and they have sought after many useless gods.
This week's haftara continues last week's in which Yirmiyahu protests his Divine appointment as rebuker of the Jews. Yet, say our Sages, Yirmiyahu, as a descendant of Rachav, was ironically fit for this purpose. Rachav was a less-than-reputable "inn-keeper." Yet, she repented: She harbored Israel's spies, aided them in their conquest of Canaan, and eventually converted to Judaism. "Yirmiyahu is the son of a disreputable woman, yet his deeds are righteous: Let him come and rebuke the Jewish people, who are the children of the righteous Yaakov, and yet their deeds are evil."
Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
Production Design: Michael Treblow
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