Torah Weekly

For the week ending 18 July 2020 / 26 Tammuz 5780

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 even 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 on the eastern side of the Jordan River 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 the Land of 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 to the crossing of the Jordan River into Eretz Yisrael. G-d commands Bnei Yisrael to drive out the Canaanites from the Land of Israel and to demolish every vestige of their idolatry. Bnei Yisrael are warned that if they fail to completely rid the Land 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 Levites, who do not receive a regular portion in the division of the Land. Cities of refuge are to be established so that someone who unintentionally kills another person may flee there. The daughters of Tzlofchad marry members of their own 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.


Device Maintenance

“Moshe wrote their goings forth, according to their journeys at the bidding of Hashem, and these were their journeys according to their goings forth.” (33:2)

The screen flashed: “Device maintenance! Tap below to optimize your machine!” I tapped. “Wow! You’ve got 5 memory-hungry programs hogging up your memory! Let’s see what we can you about this! Tap below to improve it! This won’t affect your personal data.”

I tap the button. Immediately, circles spin on my screen, and little flashes, like so many drops of sweat, seem to spin off the circles as we valiantly do battle with those memory-hugging hogs. And then, in quick succession, “10 background apps closed.” “100 MB of storage space freed up.” “No abnormal battery use detected.” “No app crashes detected.” “No malware apps detected.” “Virus scanning turned on.” “Total freed up – 2.5 GB since you started using Device Maintenance!” And at the top the screen, inside a large circle throb the words: “100 – Excellent! Your device had been optimized.” I felt good about that.

It’s amazing how far a little encouragement goes – even from an inanimate machine.

“Moshe wrote their goings forth, according to their journeys at the bidding of Hashem, and these were their journeys according to their goings forth.”

In the first half of this verse, Hashem tells Moshe to encourage the people and write that all their “goings

forth” were only for the goal of reaching Eretz Yisrael — the destination of all their “journeyings.” That is why in the first half of the sentence, “goings forth” precedes the word “journeys.” Without that encouragement to the Jewish People in the desert, their journeyings seemed like nothing more than an incessant road-trip. In the second half of the verse, the word “journey” precedes “going forth.” Now, another place. Now, another place. Like a seemingly endless succession of “goings forth.” They didn’t focus on where the journey was taking them. A little encouragement goes a long way.

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