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Mattot-Masei
               Numbers 30:2-36:13       Haftorah: Jeremiah 2:4-28, 3:4, 4:1-2
Shabbat, July 29, 2000 - 26 Tamuz 5760

Torah Outreach Program                                            More Torah commentary

Masei

“These are the journeys of the children of Israel, who went out of Egypt by their units, by the hand of Moshe and Aharon (33:1)”.

The last few portions showed the state of the new generation’s nation. They had the potential to be a model holy nation in Israel. Poised and confident, they were ready to conquer Canaan. They may have even felt superior to their fathers, who tragically blew their own mission, filled with fear by the spies.

The sons, however, were still tainted by unconquered and unsanctified passion and materialism—ready victims of Ms. Midian and amber waves of Jordanian grain. They must now learn from both their fathers’ greatness and their fathers’ failure. The higher Exodus generation could have permanently conquered Canaan without firing a shot. Masei puts the 40 year trek in perspective; its terse list of all 42 stations and events will be explored, in depth and detail, in Dvarim.

The commentator Vilna Gaon explains that the land was divided by lottery into 12 equal portions, then adjusted to the size of each tribe. If the Jews won’t drive out non-repentant idolaters, they’ll be influenced by their animalistic life-styles and driven from the land. The borders of Israel, affecting many laws connected with the Land.

Eleazer and Yehoshua divide the land, assisted by princes, appointed for each tribe. The tribes must provide, proportionate to their size, 48 Levite cities; six are cities of refuge for those who commit manslaughter--compassionate holy Levites are to cure their spirits there; three cities will be added in Messianic times.

Three of the six cities were in the territory of the 9½ tribes, who got their land, in Israel proper, via lottery; the other 3 were in the territory of the other 2½ tribes, in TransJordan. All murderers, even intentional, were sent to these cities before standing trial.

The family avenger may kill a negligent killer if he leaves the city of refuge--the Levite city is to protect him while reshaping his flawed personality, both a cause and a result of the incident; he is kept from regular society until the high priest dies. No ransom is taken for any killer, and the Temple is no refuge.

Meanwhile, Tzelafchad’s daughters, who earlier obtained a ruling from Moshe permitting them to inherit their father’s land since they had no brothers, married within their own tribe, as ordered by Moshe, after complaints by the tribal elders that their land would leave the tribe.

Haftorah
Ungrateful Israel leaves God, who has made them His unique people, for meaningless substitutes (e.g. Western “culture”); they defile the holy model land of Israel. Priests and Torah scholars lacked the spirit of God, while punctiliously following all details of the law; their dead knowledge couldn’t open minds and hearts to God. Israel’s secular leadership and prophets were also alienated from God.

Back to commentary on Mattot

Torah Outreach Program, based in Jerusalem, provides a study of every Torah reading and Jewish Holiday, giving exact citations and interfacing modern culture and knowledge with the Torah and Jewish tradition. By its own description, Torah Outreach Program is apolitical, open, modern Zionist, and “truly traditional,” believing that the written and oral law are from God. Visit their website at Torah Outreach Program.

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