For the week ending 30 July 2005 / 23 Tammuz 5765

Parshat Matot

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.


Bentley For A Day

"Pens for the flock we shall build here for our livestock and cities for our small children" (32:16)

Two people. One standing at the counter of ExecuRent-a-Car, the other sitting in Jack Barclays, the Rolls Royce/Bentley dealers. Two people about to get their new Bentley Continental GT (price a mere $210,000 and change). One is taking delivery of his new car. The other is renting for a day.

Which one has the most pleasure from his Bentley, the fellow whos buying the car, or the one whos renting?

Even as he takes the car keys from the ExecuRent rep, somewhere in the back of his mind the fellow whos renting the car has a "Cinderella moment"; he knows that in 24 hours hes going to have to give the car back. The other feels that the car is his. Forever. Well almost forever

Things bring us pleasure in life to the extent that we perceive we own them.

Which is why physical things never give us that much joy. For in the back of our minds we are aware that we can never hold on to physical things. The Bentley can be stolen. It can break down (Yes! Even Bentleys break down. Shhhh!)

A person is never that happy with physical things because he knows that tomorrow someone else could be living in his house, wearing his suit, driving his Bentley.

When we feel we really own something - that gives us pleasure. And the only things we really own are spiritual things our mitzvot and our good deeds. Those can never be taken away from us, and therefore they are the only things that ultimately make us happy.

The two tribes of Reuven and Gad asked Moshe if they could receive their portion of the Land of Israel on the eastern bank of the Jordan. This was an ideal place for them as it was well suited to grazing the large amount of livestock they had acquired. Moshe was concerned that their settling the east bank before conquering the rest of the Land would deal a severe blow to the morale of the Jewish People in the coming confrontation with the nations of the Land. He accused them of forsaking their brothers in a time of need. They explained to Moshe that their intention had never been to settle at this point and go no further. But first came "Pens for the flock we shall build here for our livestock and cities for our small children" After which, each and every one of them would lead the Jewish People in the conquest of the west bank of the Jordan.

Moshe agreed to their proposal and said, "Build for yourselves cities for your small children and pens for your flock."

Interestingly, Moshe reversed the original order of the sentence. The tribes of Reuven and Gad spoke of the building the animal shelter before that of their children, whereas Moshe spoke first of the children and then of the animals. This was an implicit criticism for being more focused on their property than on their offspring: "Why did you speak of building stables for your cattle before cities for your children? It seems you attach more importance to your possessions than to your children."

In Hebrew, the word for "possessions" is nechasim. The word nechasim is related to the word mechuseh which means "concealed", for after a person passes from this world he no longer possesses his "possessions" they are concealed from him by being given to someone else. Similarly, the coin known as a zuz derives from the verb lazuz which means "to move", meaning that money is restless. The Hebrew word for money itself mammon is a contraction of "Ma atah moneh?" meaning "What are you counting its nothing."

Nothing more than a Bentley thats going to turn into a Pumpkin Continental GT.

  • Adapted from Rabbi Noach Orlowek

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