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Matot 5771

Matot (Numbers 30:2-32:42 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! There are two ways to gain wisdom about life -- study revealed wisdom (the Torah) or look at life and distill the wisdom (philosophy, history, science).  In Jewish law, one is obligated to stand for a scholar and for an elderly person -- even if the elderly person is not well-versed in Torah.  Why?  If a person is advanced in years he has lived life and has therefore gained wisdom about life.

We can even learn lessons from the animals.  The Talmud (Eruvin 100b) teaches: "If the Torah had not been given, we would learn modesty from a cat, honesty from an ant, faithfulness from a dove ..."  The cat eliminates in covert places and covers its excrement.  The ant does not enter another ant's hole to steal; if another ant carried a piece of wheat, it will smell the scent of the other ant and not take his piece of grain.  A dove mates for life only with its partner.

However, it is important to learn the right lessons from animals.  If a person was so inclined he might choose to learn modesty, honesty and faithfulness from a dog -- which eliminates wherever it chooses, takes for itself whatever it can get its teeth into and mates with any other dog.  That's why we need the Torah to tell us which are the correct lessons for us to learn!

Meanwhile, there are many valuable lessons that we can learn from geese that was sent to me.  It can help each of us aspire to be better people, help others and make the world a better place.



As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird following.  By flying in a V formation, the whole flock adds a 71% longer flying range than if each bird flew alone.
Lesson: People who share a common direction and sense of community can go where they are going quicker and easier when they travel on the thrust of one another.

Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front.
Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose, we will stay in formation with those who are headed where we want to go.

When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose takes over at the point position.
Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership because people, like geese, are interdependent upon each other.

The geese in formation honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.
Lesson: We need to make sure our honking from behind is encouraging -- not something less helpful.

When a When a goose gets sick or wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow him down to help and protect him.  They stay with him until he is either able to fly again or dies.  Then they launch out on their own, either with another formation or to catch up with the original flock.
Lesson: If we have as much sense as geese, we'll stand by each other like they do.

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Torah Portion of the Week

Matos includes the laws of making and annulling vows, the surprise attack on Midian (the '67 War wasn't the Jewish people's first surprise attack!) in retribution for the devastation the Midianites wreaked upon the Jewish people, the purification after the war of people and vessels, dedicating a portion of the spoils to the communal good (perhaps the first Federation campaign), the request of the tribes of Reuben and Gad for their portion of land to be east of the Jordan river (yes, Trans-Jordan/Jordan is also part of the Biblical land of Israel).  Moshe objects to the request because he thinks the tribes will not take part in the conquering of the land of Israel; the tribes clarify that they will be the advance troops in the attack and thus receive permission.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"If her husband will remain silent for a complete day, then she must fulfill all of her vows or all of the bans which are upon her. He has established them because he remained silent on the day that he heard them" (Numbers 30:15).

Why is her husband's silence considered to be agreement to her vow?

Comments the Sforno (Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno, 1475-1550): When a person has the ability to protest and remains silent, his silence is similar to verbal consent.  When you do not say something to disagree, it is as if you agree with what was said or done.

This concept has many practical applications.  Very often, someone might say something in your presence that is improper and you feel that you cannot really influence the person to change his mind or to stop what he is saying.  Should you speak up or remain silent?

Whenever your silence can be understood by others as agreement with what was said, you have an obligation to speak the truth.  This way no one will mistakenly think that you agree with what was said.

Moreover, you can never tell; perhaps you will be successful in influencing others to make positive changes.  A person who is not very assertive might find this difficult.  However, learn from the person who says things that should not be said. If he is able to say something that he shouldn't, you certainly have a right to say those things that should be said.  He is not afraid to say something improper, you should have the courage to speak up out of idealism!


(or go to

Jerusalem 7:08
Guatemala 6:16 - Hong Kong 6:50 - Honolulu 6:56
J'Burg 5:17 - London 8:46 - Los Angeles 7:44
Melbourne 5:07 - Mexico City 7:58 - Miami 7:54
New York 8:04 - Singapore 6:59 - Toronto 8:34


In the end, we will
remember not the words of our enemies,
but the silence of our friends.
--  Martin Luther King Jr.


With Deep Appreciation to

Sam Pearson III


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