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Torah Teasers Parshat Masay

Masay (Numbers 33-36 )

by Moshe Erlbaum

1. In this parsha, what act does Moshe perform that he does not do anywhere else in the book of Numbers?

Moshe performs the act of writing. The Torah states that "Moshe wrote" all the encampments of throughout their sojourn in the desert (Numbers 33:2).

2. Where are date-palm trees mentioned in this parsha?

One of the first encampments in the desert is called Eilim, which had 70 date-palm trees (Numbers 33:9).

3. Which encampment mentioned in this parsha may allude to the holiday of Chanukah?

The 25th encampment is a place called Chasmonah (Numbers 33:29). Chanukah is celebrated beginning on the 25th day of the month of Kislev, the day the Jews rested after battling the Syrian-Greeks. The heroes of the holiday were the priests known as Chashmonim, linguistically similar to the name of the 25th encampment.

4. Whose date of death is the only one recorded in the Torah?

The death of Aharon the High Priest is recorded as the first day of the fifth month (Numbers 33:38) - Rosh Chodesh Av. This is the only mention of someone's date of death in the Torah. It is interesting to note that Av is also the month in which both Temples were destroyed, correlating to the Temple service performed by the kohanim, the descendants of Aharon.

5. In what context are thorns mentioned in this parsha?

The Torah warns that if the Jews do not conquer all the nations in the land of Canaan, those nations will be thorns in their sides (Numbers 33:55).

6. Which 3 seas are mentioned in this parsha?

In describing the boundaries of the Land of Israel, the Torah mentions three seas: Dead Sea, Mediterranean Sea, and Sea of Galilee (Numbers 34:3, 6, 11).

7. Which law in this parsha involves iron? Where in the Torah is iron mentioned for the first time?

An "iron utensil" is one example given of a deadly weapon, which if used to kill another would warrant the death penalty (Numbers 35:16). In parshas Beraishis, the Torah introduces Tuval Kayin as one who sharpens copper and iron (Genesis 4:22).

8. Where is oil mentioned in this parsha?

Someone who accidentally kills is forced to flee to a city of refuge, where he must remain until the death of the High Priest - who is anointed with the sanctifying oil (Numbers 35:25).

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