The year is 2448 and the 40 years in the desert are drawing to a close. Miriam and Aharon have passed on, and Yehoshua has been appointed as the successor. In these last two portions of Sefer Bamidbar, Matot – Masei, HaShem begins to wrap things up. Pay attention to the laws selected to end the 4th Sefer.
Parshat Matot is always read during the three weeks of mourning over the destruction of the Holy Temple, an event which plugged the Jewish people into a physical and spiritual exile from which they have not yet recovered. It is not surprising therefore, that the name of the Parsha contains a message of inspiration which helps us overcome the adversities of exile.
Matot, Mattot, Mattoth, or Matos (מטות — Hebrew for “tribes,” the fifth word, and the first distinctive word, in the parshah) is the 42nd weekly Torah portion (parshah) in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the ninth in the book of Numbers. It constitutes Numbers 30:2–32:42. Jews in the Diaspora generally read it in July or early August. The name of the forty-second reading from the Torah is Mattot (מטות), which means “tribes.” The name is derived from the words of Numbers 30:1, which says, “Then Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the sons of Israel.” Numbers 30 discusses the laws of vows and oaths. Numbers 31 tells the story of Israel’s war with Midian. Numbers 32 relates the story of how the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Mannaseh came to inherit the land east of the Jordan River. Except in biblical calendar leap years, Mattot is read together with the subsequent Torah portion, Massei, on the same Sabbath.
Masei, Mas’ei, or Masse (מסעי — Hebrew for “journeys,” the second word, and the first distinctive word, in the parshah) is the 43rd weekly Torah portion (parshah) in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the 10th and last in the book of Numbers. It constitutes Numbers 33:1–36:13. Jews in the Diaspora generally read it in July or August. The last reading from the book of Numbers is called Massei (מסעי), a word that means “journeys.” It comes from the first verse of the reading, which begins with the words “These are the journeys of the sons of Israel” (Numbers 33:1). Massei is the end of the continuous narrative of Torah that began in Genesis with the creation of the universe. The narrative does not resume until the end of Deuteronomy, when Moses dies.
The final reading in Numbers settles several last-minute details. In it we find a list of the encampments from Egypt to the plains of Moab. We also find instructions for apportioning the land, as well as the specifics regarding the borders of the land. While explaining the land and its borders, Moses introduces the laws of the cities of refuge and more inheritance laws. In most years, synagogues read Massei together with the preceding portion, Mattot, which accounts for the brevity of this portion’s commentary.
Note: On the Shabbat the Torah Reading is divided into 7 sections. Each section is called an Aliya [literally: Go up] since for each Aliya, one person “goes up” to make a bracha [blessing] on the Torah Reading. Here are this week`s aliyot:
1st Aliya: The laws of personal vows are detailed and Moshe is instructed to "take revenge" against Midian. In the battle, both Balak and Bilaam are killed.
2nd Aliya: In the aftermath of the war, Moshe instructs the soldiers regarding the applicable laws of Tumah – impurity, and deals with the division of the booty between the soldiers, community, and the Mishkan.
In appreciation for the fact that not a single soldier was lost in battle, the Generals and Captains donate their personal percentage of the captured gold to the Mishkan. The total weight of the donated gold weighed 837.5 lbs.! (Areyeh Kaplan)
3rd & 4th Aliyot: Moshe is approached by the tribes of Reuven, Gad, and 1/2 of Menashe to acquire the Trans-Jordan territories captured from Sichon and Og. Moshe first treats their petition with suspicion; however, an agreement is reached between the 2 1/2 tribes and Moshe: Trans-Jordan in exchange for manning the front lines in the campaign to take Eretz Yisrael.
5th Aliya: Moshe instructs the Bnai Yisroel to clear out the Land from all negative influences, and sets the Biblical boundaries of the Land.
6th Aliya: New leaders are appointed to oversee the division of the Land, and the 48 Levitical cities, including the 6 Cites of Refuge, are mandated.
7th Aliya: The laws regarding the inadvertent murderer are detailed, and the prohibition against marrying outside one’s tribe is established. This prohibition was only for the generation that occupied the Land.
This aliyah completes the book of Bamidbar. In a synagogue, the congregation stands during the reading of the last part of the aliyah, and when the Torah reader reaches the end of the aliyah the congregation recites: "Chazak Chazak V’Nischazek" — as we do at the end of each one of the five Books of the Torah. Next week we begin reading the book of Devarim.
Tags: adversities, aharon, bamidbar, biblical calendar, book of numbers, distinctive word, fifth word, holy temple, Israel, jordan river, Judaism, leap years, matot, Matot/Massei, mattot, mdash, midian, parsha, parshah, reading from the torah, rsquo, Sabbath Parashat, second word, Shabbat parshiot - Diaspora, Shabbat parshiot - Eretz Yisroel, Torah, Torah Reading, weekly torah portion, zion
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