Parshat Matot – Masei Highlights

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First Portion

  • During the first year of one’s passing, it’s known that the deceased still has a strong connection to this world. Although they can’t communicate with people who are alive and cannot perform any mitzvot, never-the less, the soul is given tremendous powers to feel what’s occurring with his loved ones and the world. So in essence, they can see us; however, we can’t see them. In a crude technical way, they are on a different frequency; they’ve switched channels. According to the mystics, there is quite a revolving door to and from frequencies. For example, during the Temple times, if one wanted to make an animal hekdesh – sanctify an animal to the Temple, he would proclaim, “I sanctify this animal to the temple.” With the vow, he has prohibited everyone, including himself, to use this animal; it can only be used for Temple use. If one looks at this animal, his appearance didn’t change since the proclamation; however, in a different and higher frequency, the animal is branded “hekdesh”. This is how powerful one’s speech, or for that matter, an oath, can be.
  • In this week’s Parsha, we are introduced to a number of concepts. One concept is a neder – a vow, and another is a shvuah – an oath. Both are types of promises. By a vow, we understand a person promises to restrict himself with regard to a certain object. For example, he vows that wine should be forbidden to him. If no object is involved the term neder – a vow does not apply but rather the term shvuah – oath – applies. An oath is personal a person restrains himself from performing a certain activity. For example, he promises he will not go to sleep at night. Both types of promises are binding even if he doesn’t pronounce G-d’s name.
  • G-d commands Moshe to take revenge on the nation of Midyan for attempting to infiltrate and destroy the Israelites by dispatching the Midyanite women in a mission to seduce them and take them off the Godly path.
  • Bilam and Balak, the masterminds of the deadly plot, are killed in this war.
  • G-d reveals to Moshe and the Israelites that Moshe will die after this war. Many of the Israelites were tempted to delay finishing off the Midyanim because they wanted to prolong Moshe’s life. It’s ironic how for so long there were those who complained about him and these same complainers were the ones who are sorry to see him go.

Second Portion

Moshe becomes angry at the officers who did not kill off the women, who were also the central figures in that hideous plot. Perhaps Moshe should have been more specific in giving that order. Regardless of who they brought and didn’t bring, the fact that Moshe lost his temper, caused him forget some of the laws.

Third Portion

  • The tribes of Gad and Reuben have become very wealthy in the war against Midyan. The members of Gad needed spacious pasture grounds for their herds, which they feared will not be sufficient in the promised land that they confiscated from the enemy. They rationalized they could get a lot more bang for their buck on the eastern side of the Jordan. Gad and Reuben were not afraid to live by themselves in the vicinity of the gentile nations.
  • Moshe was incensed, denouncing them as brood sinners. Yet after prolonged argument and clarification, he agreed to their request. The commentaries are puzzled by this shift in Moshe’s attitude. What was he thinking at first? What was he thinking later on?
  • Some comment that indeed Gad and Reuben sinned a) They subjugated themselves to materialism, b) rejected communal responsibilities, c) had a secular attitude to the land of Israel, d) separated themselves from the Jewish people, and e) had disdain for the land.

Fourth portion

G-d has many names; in the beginning of Parsha Masei we find a summarization of the entire route the Jews took in the desert. There were 42 places alluding to a mystical 42 letter name of G-d. Therefore, their reading should not be interrupted during the reading of these places.

Fifth Portion

G-d instructs Moshe to drive out the current inhabitants and they should not be your neighbors. We learn how important good neighbors are.

Sixth Portion

The Israelites were commanded to set aside 48 cities for the Levites, whose tribe was not to receive a regular portion of the land.

Seventh Portion

G-d commanded Moshe, “A Jew who murders shall flee to one of the cities designated by Me as a city of refuge.” There he not be slain by the Goel Hadam (redeemer or avenger who is the closest relations), but should the murderer step out of the confines of his city of refuge, then the goel hadam may rightfully slay him. The murderer is banished to the city of refuge until the death of the high priest. Then he may return home.

Credit to: Rabbi Avi Matmon