Matot-Masay (Numbers 30-36 )
GOOD MORNING! When I first started learning in yeshiva in 1973 at the age of 23 there were very few books available for a Jew from a secular background who wanted to learn about his Torah background. One of the most prolific authors dealing with Jewish history, questions of science and Torah, personal growth -- amongst other topics -- was Rabbi Avigdor Miller, of blessed memory. His books had a profound impact on my life. He wrote: Rejoice O Youth!, Torah Nation, Behold a People, Sing, You Righteous, Awake My Glory, Praise My Soul, amongst others (available at your local Jewish bookstore, at JudaicaEnterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242). There are over 2000 recorded lectures available that he gave over the years!
Recently, I came across Rabbi Miller's TEN STEPS TO GREATNESS which I thought you might find of benefit. Rabbi Miller was a Torah giant, wise in Torah and secular knowledge.
STEP ONE: Spend at least 30 seconds each day thinking about the WORLD TO COME - Olam Haba - and that we are in this world only as a preparation for the World to Come. This is the purpose of life.
STEP TWO: Spend a few seconds each day in a private place and say to the Almighty, "I love you God." You will be fulfilling a positive commandment from the Torah. This will kindle a fire in your heart and will have a powerful effect on your character. Your exteriority bestirs your interiority. The Almighty is listening. He loves you much more than you love Him.
STEP THREE: Every day do one act of kindness that no one knows about, in secrecy. Have intention beforehand that you are doing this in order to fulfill your program to greatness.
The practice of doing acts of kindliness - Gemilut Hasadim - is one of the three most important functions in the world.
Examples: If your wife is not in the kitchen, clean a few dishes or straighten up for her without her knowing. If you should see something potentially dangerous on the sidewalk, clear it off to the side so no one will get hurt.
STEP FOUR: Encourage someone every day. "The Almighty encourages the humble." Have in mind you are doing it because of the program. Anonymous letters of kindness can do a great deal of good to encourage people.
STEP FIVE: Spend one minute a day thinking about what happened yesterday. "Let us search out our ways and investigate." Everyone should have his mind on what he is doing - by reviewing yesterday's actions daily.
STEP SIX: Make all your actions for the purpose of Heaven. Say it once a day.
Example: "I am doing this in order to be more aware of the Almighty."
STEP SEVEN: Be aware of the principle -- "Man was created in the image of God." Every human face is a reflection of the Almighty. Your face is like a screen and your soul like a projector which projects on your face the glory of the human soul which has in it the greatness of the Almighty. Once a day pick a face and think "I am seeing the image of God." You will begin to understand the endless nobility of a face.
STEP EIGHT: Once a day give a person a full smile. Just as the Almighty shines on us, we should smile on others. Smile because the Almighty wants you to, even though you really don't want to.
When you smile have intentions that you are doing it for the purpose of coming closer to the Almighty through the Ten Steps To Greatness.
STEP NINE: "The Almighty clothes the naked." Clothing is a testament to the nobility of man. Man is unique -- has free will, has a soul, made in the image of the Almighty. Even Angels are beneath man in greatness. To demonstrate the superiority of mankind, we must be clothed. Spend 30 seconds in the morning thinking about our garments: what a gift they are from the Almighty.
STEP TEN: Spend time each day thinking about the olden Jerusalem during the time of the Temple. Every day sit on the floor (before going to sleep), spend one second on the floor and mourn for the destruction of Jerusalem. Think "If I should forget you Jerusalem, let my right arm forget how to function" (Psalms 137:5).
"The wise man seizes the opportunity to do mitzvot" (King Solomon). The lazy person says -- someday I'll do it. If you start this program, after 30 days you will be tired. So, wait six months until you start again. Do another 30 days then wait five months and so on. After a while you might do it all the time. If you do it even one day you are extraordinary!
Matos and Masei, Numbers 30:2 - 36:13
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.
Masei includes the complete list of journeys in the desert (the name of each stop hints at a deeper meaning, a lesson learned there). God commands to drive out the land's inhabitants, to destroy their idols and to divide the land by a lottery system. God establishes the borders of the Land of Israel. New leadership is appointed, cities of the Levites and Cities of Refuge (where an accidental murderer may seek asylum) are designated. Lastly, the laws are set forth regarding accidental and willful murder as well as inheritance laws only for that generation regarding property of a couple where each came from a different tribe.
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based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states regarding koshering cooking implements brought back from war as booty:
"And Elazar the Kohen said to the men of the army who were coming to the war, this is the statute of the Torah which the Almighty commanded Moshe: Only the gold and the silver, the copper, the iron, the tin, and the lead -- all things that (are used to cook) with fire shall be passed through fire (to kosher them)..."
What lessons can we learn from koshering a pot in order to improve ourselves?
It is imperative to remove any non-kosher food that was absorbed in the vessel before using it for kosher food. First, it is necessary to clean out the vessel very well and to remove any rust. Then the vessel must be kashered in the same manner that it was previously used. If it were used directly on the fire, it needs to have direct contact with fire to render it fit to be used. If non-kosher food was cooked in it with boiling water, it now needs to be immersed in boiling water to remove what was absorbed.
The Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, the leading rabbi of the Jewish people until his passing in 1933, commented that the same process applies to purifying people from their spiritual impurities and defects. First, a person must remove the "rust" of his transgressions by means of repentance; regretting what one has done wrong and accepting upon oneself not to continue doing those things in the future. Afterwards, one needs to be careful that the positive actions he does will replace the negative behavior on the same level. If one was enthusiastic and energetic in doing wrong, he should now have similar enthusiasm and energy when doing good. He should now use what he has erred with to make amends. For example, if one used his ability to speak to relate gossip, loshon hora, he should now utilize speech for fulfilling mitzvot, commandments.
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-- Sir Winston Churchill