Torah Weekly

For the week ending 14 July 2018 / 2 Av 5778

Parshat Matot - Masei

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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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. 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.


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 Tzolofchad 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.


Read My Virtual Lips

“Moshe said if you do this thing…” (32:20)

Is it my imagination, or is there a completely new way of saying “No”?

Albert Einstein once said that education is what remains after you’ve forgotten everything you learned in school. Part of my education, and I assume that of the vast majority of my “baby boom” peers, was how to say “No” politely. “I’m so sorry but…” “Please excuse me but…” “I’m afraid I’m going to have to say no…” Or, even, “I’m so sorry, but I’m going to have to pass on this…” But merely not to respond – that was unthinkable.

One of the less attractive features of our new cyber age — and it is certainly not lacking in unattractive features — is what I call “the email blaring silence.” “The email blaring silence” goes like this: You are involved in some email negotiation or other, to buy something or to rent something — and then all of a sudden the “line goes dead”. Despite numerous follow-up emails, the other side just doesn’t respond. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Now, maybe this is because of embarrassment. It’s true that people don’t like to say “No”, but what a waste of someone’s time — and expectations!

In this week’s Torah portion we learn from Moshe’s negotiations with the tribes of Reuven and Gad for their portion of the Land of Israel how precise an agreement must be. The condition must precede the subject of the agreement and the condition must be doubled. The wording must be thus: “If the condition is fulfilled, the agreement is valid, but if it is not fulfilled, the agreement is not valid… etc.” (Kiddushin 61a)

How different from our brave new “Read my virtual lips!”

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