Matot-Masay (Numbers 30-36 )
GOOD MORNING! I was particularly moved when I read the following piece by Rabbi Noah Weinberg, founder and head of Aish HaTorah. I thought that you, too, might appreciate it and gain from it.
MESSAGE FOR THE THREE WEEKS
by Rabbi Noah Weinberg
Dean of Aish HaTorah
The prophet Ezekiel foretells that there will be a time when the Jews will say they no longer want to be God's chosen people. Tragically, this prophecy is coming true today. In Israel, most of the country is trading Westernism for Judaism. And in the Diaspora, the rate of intermarriage, as a measure of assimilation, is 70%.
Those of us who appreciate what it means to be Jewish are responsible for the situation of our people. Why? The Jewish people are one unit. The spiritual health of our nation is affected for good or bad by every member. Therefore the destiny of each Jew is inextricably tied with the action of his neighbor.
The Talmud (Shabbos 55a) recounts a fascinating exchange between God and the angels, which teaches us a profound lesson about the depth of our mutual responsibility. In Ezekiel 9:4, it is written: God said to the angel: "Go through Jerusalem and make a mark with ink on the foreheads of the righteous so that the angels of destruction should not attack them. Also make a mark with blood on the foreheads of the wicked, so that they should be attacked by the angels of destruction." The Attribute of Justice said before God, "Master of the Universe: How is one group different than the other?"
God replied, "One group is righteous, while the other group is wicked." The Attribute of Justice said, "Master of the Universe, but the righteous were able to protest the actions of the wicked and did not do so." God said, "It is revealed and known to Me that even if they would have protested, it would have had no effect."
The Attribute replied, "But the righteous didn't know that!" It is thus written, "The Angels of destruction began with the elders who were in front of the Temple." This is the punishment given to those who (according to God Himself) could not have succeeded no matter what the effort. Therefore, how great is our accountability in this generation - when success is clearly within our grasp!
Why did we cry in the generation of Moses? Because even after God took us out of Egypt, gave us the Manna, the Well and the Clouds of Glory, we still said He couldn't bring us into the land of Israel. We didn't trust in Him - because we lacked appreciation for all He'd done for us.
On Tisha B'Av, we have to take an accounting of ourselves. Are we grateful for all the Almighty has done for us - and do we trust Him? Are we in pain because of our brothers' suffering? Do we believe the Almighty will assist us if we reach out to help fellow Jews? Of course! The Almighty wants His children to return to Him!
We are one people with one destiny. Each of us is responsible for the actions of the other. A handful of people dedicated to the cause of Jewish continuity has already made a lasting impact on our future. If we join together, we will surely merit to bring back the entire Jewish nation.
Portion of the Week
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.
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
In the list of travels through the desert, the Torah states, "And they traveled from Kivrot Hataavah" (Number 33:17). As mentioned above, the names of the places hint at a deeper meaning, a lesson learned there. What do we learn from the name Kivrot Hataavah?
Rabbi Yitzchok of Vorki tells us that the Torah is hinting to us here to keep a distance from desires. The words Kivrot Hataavah mean "burial place of desires." A person needs to be on guard that his desires do not cause him an early burial. How can one overcome his desires? Says Rabbi Yitzchok, "by focusing on the words 'they traveled' in the desert and remembering that we, too, are only traveling temporarily in this world on our path to the next world. Therefore, we should not give in to immediate temporal desires which can destroy our lives in this world and impact our life in the world to come.
The goal: be in control of your desires and do not allow your desires to control you!
CANDLE LIGHTING - July 28:
Jerusalem 7:02 Miami 7:52 New York 7:59
L.A. 7:39 Hong Kong 6:46 Singapore 6:58
Guatemala 6:15 Honolulu 6:54 J'Burg 5:20
Melbourne 5:11 Moscow 8:26 London 8:38
Atlanta 8:24 Toronto 8:29 Montreal 8:09
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
as a general rule,
when they are sought.
-- Margaret Oliphant
Mr. and Mrs. Alvin Lloyd Brown