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Matot 5759

Matot-Masay (Numbers 30-36 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! The story is told of lunch time at a construction site. A new worker opens up his lunch pail and says, "Yuck. A salami sandwich. I hate salami!" The second day at lunch time, the new worker again opens up his lunch pail and again says, "Yuck. A salami sandwich. I hate salami!" When he finds a
salami sandwich the third day, one of his co-workers says, "Buddy, why don't you just tell your wife that you hate salami and ask her to make something else?" The new worker replied, "I would, but I make my own lunch."

Many of us "make our own lunch" and then complain about it. "Bad" marriages are often an example of this phenomenon. There is an old adage "A happy wife is a happy life," yet how many husbands yell and scream at their wives? (Yes, their are wives who yell and scream at their husbands, but it's hard to rhyme "A happy
husband is a happy ..." I guess I could have written, "A happy spouse is a happy house.") So, what do these yellers expect? That their spouses will say, "Gee. I never thought of that before. I was mistaken. Thanks for showing me my error and the correct path!" Only thing is ... it doesn't happen that way.

The Torah teaches that marriages completes a person. Our spouse is our other half. Therefore, it makes sense not to "shoot yourself in the foot" -- especially since it's your own foot. Both parties in a marriage have responsibilities. When each person focuses on his responsibilities there is happiness in a marriage. When the husband or wife focuses on how the spouse isn't fulfilling his/her responsibilities there is trouble.

Rabbi Noah Weinberg, the founder and head of Aish HaTorah, always teaches his students that one of the secrets to marital harmony is to give the first 15 minutes when you come home to your spouse. Ask three questions: "What did you do today?" "How are you feeling?" "What are you thinking about?" It will change your marriage!

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, my beloved friend and teacher, writes in his new book, Marriage -- A Wise and Sensitive Guide to Making Any Marriage Even Better (with hundreds of real-life stories -- available from your local Jewish bookstore or by calling toll-free 877-758-3242), writes that the 5 most important words in a
marriage are: Don't Cause Pain, Give Pleasure. Keep that in mind constantly before acting or speaking! The following rules are excerpted from a contract a couple agreed upon to improve their relationship:


  1. I agree to greet you enthusiastically every time I walk into
    the house.

  2. I agree to talk without raising my voice. If I ever do raise
    my voice, you just need to say, "Please speak in a quieter tone." I agree to accept this without arguing that I am speaking in a quiet tone.

  3. I agree to discuss your thoughts regarding any plans I make that will affect you; and I will not make plans unilaterally.

  4. I agree not to speak with sarcasm.

Bottom line: If you want a happy marriage, then keep your eye on the goal. Ask yourself before doing something or saying something that will affect your spouse and family, "Will this make my marriage better, happier?" If not, then don't do it or don't say it. Success in life takes discipline!

Portion of the Week
Matot & Masay

Matot 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 therefore receive permission.

Masay 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 for property when there has been a marriage between individuals from different tribes.


Dvar Torah
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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