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Matot ~מטות ~ 5774
Moses teaches the rules and restrictions regarding the role of a father or a husband in the upholding or nullification of their wife’s or daughter’s vows.
B’nei Yisrael wage war against Midian and kill Bilam, the five Midianite kings and all the men. Moses is upset that the women were taken captive since they were catalysts for the immoral behavior of the Jewish People. Moses therefore rebukes the officers. The spoils of war are counted and apportioned. The commanding officers report to Moses that there was not one casualty among B’nei Yisrael. They bring an offering that is taken by Moshe and Elazar and placed in the Ohel Mo’ed (Tent of Meeting).
The Tribes of Gad and Reuven, who own large quantities of livestock, petition Moses to allow them to remain east of the Jordan River and not receive a portion of land west of the Jordan River. They explain that the land east of the Jordan River is quite suitable grazing land for their livestock. Moses’ initial response is that this request will discourage the rest of B’nei Yisrael, and that it is akin to the sin of the spies. They assure Moses that they will first help conquer Israel, and only then will they go back to their families and homes on the eastern side of the Jordan River.
Moses grants their request on condition that they uphold their part of the deal to fight with all of Israel until it is conquered.
MAFTIR Numbers 32:39 – 42 ~ page 710
HAFTARAH Jeremiah 1:1 – 2:3 ~ page 710
This is the first of the 3 ‘Haftarot of Rebuke’ which precede the Ninth of Av – the anniversary of the destruction of both of the Holy Temples. In the year 626 B.C.E., during the reign of Josiah, king of Judah, the call comes to Jeremiah to prophecy to the People of Israel. He is told that he was predestined for this mission from birth. When he pleads immaturity, he is told not to fear for Hashem is with him. Jeremiah has two visions. In the first he sees the branch of an almond tree blossoming (a very early spring event) indicating that Hashem will hasten to fulfill His judgment. In the second vision Jeremiah sees a seething cauldron tilted to the south- this indicated that the Babylonians from the north would overthrow Judah as punishment for their sins. These warnings were to be proclaimed firmly and resolutely.
Parashah Study Questions
- Where in the text do we learn that one who incites others to sin is just as culpable as the perpetrators themselves (31:16)?
- What is the not-so-subtle rebuke given by Moses to the tribes of Reuven, Gad, and half of Menashe (32:24)? Does this have any applications today?
- Why were the spoils of Midianite jewelry passed on to Moses described as ‘atoning for our souls before G-d'(31:50) ?
- One should not listen to live music during the Three Weeks. What if you are a professional musician? But who would be hiring live musicians during this period?
- Why are engagements allowed during the Three Weeks? How about the Nine Days? Are there any restrictions?