Parsha Matot-Masei

    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.

 

   How come the tribe of Menashe was divided. Half entered the Holy land and half remained at the outskirts of the holy land? The answer requires going back in time to when Menashe chased after the brothers to retrieve the stolen cup of Yosef. And when the brothers saw him pull it out of Binyamins bag they tore their clothes. They feared that Binyamin will be killed and there father Yaakov will give up his life. So Hashem  punished Menashe measure for measure. Just like Menashe caused the brothers to tear their garments in half, Hashem made sure that Menashe will be split in half. 

 

   Good Choice Our choices and decisions don't only affect ourselves. They have an influence on others as well. In this week's Torah portion, the Jewish people were all set to move into the Land of Israel and settle there, when some of the people came to Moses and told him that they would prefer to settle by themselves outside of the land. Moses wanted to accommodate them, but realized that this would make the remainder of the people feel hesitant and scared about going into Israel. So he gave them permission to do as they wanted, but only if they would first come into the land together with everyone else and help the others get settled. Only then could they go back to where they wanted to be. We learn from here the importance of considering how our choices are going to affect those around us. 

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