Masay 5766

June 23, 2009

< 1 min read


Matot-Masay (Numbers 30-36 )

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GOOD MORNING! The Shabbat Shalom goes out via fax as well as by email. One of the more interesting messages I received on my voicemail went something like this (please read in a loud, belligerent, attacking voice): "Take me off the Shabbat Shalom Fax. I didn't ask for it, I don't want this (expletive deleted) or I'll put the Attorney General on you for unsolicited faxes. You have been warned, guide yourself accordingly." Unfortunately, he did not give me the name to remove, the fax number to remove or a number to call if there is a problem. However, luckily I was able to cross-reference the time and date of the call with my Caller ID to find a name and number to call.

I called the "gentleman" and asked him if he had left a message to be removed from the Shabbat Shalom Fax. He proceeded to erupt again in a volcanic display of harsh tonal qualities, threats and name-calling. When he calmed down - or at least stopped to take a breath - I told him that I would be delighted to remove him from the distribution list, but I needed his name or fax number to remove him and he neglected to leave either in his message. He gave me his name. It was not in the database. I asked for his fax number, figuring perhaps there was a data-entry error which mistakenly directed the fax to him. His fax number was not in the database.

I then asked him to please read the very small letters at the very top left side of the page and to let me know who had sent him the fax. He responded, "Oh, look at that. One of my friends sent me a copy of your fax. I wonder why he did that." I wonder if he ever made the connection why his friend sent him the fax and the topic of the fax - "How to Conquer Anger."

I asked him, "How do you feel after leaving such a harsh, threatening message (which I personally found a bit rattling - yes, even rabbis have feelings) when it was all a misunderstanding?" He retorted, "I was only trying to be a good guy by giving you a chance to remove me before turning you into the authorities."

Similarly, I received an "interesting" letter from a New York attorney. It was a copy of a suit he had filed on behalf of himself against me for $6,000 damages for receiving unsolicited "solicitation faxes". It came with a cover letter asking me to please sign the enclosed document stating that I had been served to save him the expense of having me served in person.

There are only five problems with his suit:

  1. His name is not in my database.
  2. His fax number is not in my database
  3. He never called or faxed to let me know that he wished to be removed (which makes me wonder how bothered he was).
  4. The four faxes which he included in the copy of the suit did NOT have his name at the top; the name had been removed.
  5. The Shabbat Shalom Fax is not a solicitation fax, it is an educational fax.

What lessons for life can we learn from these two stories? First, we must be clear about our motivations. Do we really wish to make right the situation, to better the world - or are we just looking for a fight or to take advantage of someone?

Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik once commented about zealousness: Both the owner of the home and the cat want to catch mice. The sole difference is that the owner of the home wants there to be no mice while the cat wants there to be mice to be caught.

Second, when we wish to change something, we must make sure of the facts before communicating our wishes.

Third, though we feel totally justified in blasting the other person, we should be focused on our goal - will venting my rage help me accomplish my goal or impede the accomplishing of my goal?

Fourth, will an emotional outburst make me feel better or worse? (The fourth question is really rhetorical - emotional outbursts often: (a) drain one's energy, (b) leave a person with regrets on how he treated his fellow human being, (c) make one look ridiculous, (d) are embarrassing when one is shown to be mistaken, and (e) eventuate an apology.)

Of course, there is the obvious lesson to be learned for those who receive the Shabbat Shalom via fax - when leaving a message, be sure to speak slowly and clearly, and to leave your name and number. If you do not want to receive the Shabbat Shalom - just call 305-535-2474 ext.#2, fax 305-531-9334 or email No problem. You will be removed. Be sure to write in big numerals the fax number to be removed because refaxing a fax can obliterate the original header!

For more on "Conquering Anger and Controlling Passions...
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Torah 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 thus 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 only for that generation regarding property of a couple where each came from a different tribe.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

""And Moshe was angry with the officers of the army, the captains of thousands, and captains of hundreds who came from the service of war." (Numbers 31:14).

Why was Moshe angry and what do we learn from his anger?

The Talmud (Pesachim 66b) informs us that Moshe was punished for his anger at the officers for not following his instructions regarding the Midianite captives. Basing itself on this verse, the Talmud says that if a wise person becomes angry, he will forget his knowledge. In his anger, Moshe forgot the laws dealing with the Midianite vessels. Consequently, Eliezer, instead of Moshe, taught these laws to the soldiers (verse 21).

Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv pointed out that Moshe's rebuke was correct. The soldiers had erred and deserved censure. Moshe's only wrong was his emotion of anger. Even when a person should rebuke someone, he must remain calm and be careful not to grow angry.

If you know someone with an anger problem, I highly recommend Anger The Inner Teacher - A Nine-Step Program to Free Yourself from Anger by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin. It is available at your local Jewish bookstore, at or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242.

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There is nothing worse than being wrong
at the top of your voice
-- Allan Epstein

Mazal Tov on the Bat Mitzvah of
Pamela Hirsh
With love, Mark & Sara Vogel

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