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Matot-Masei ~ מטות־מסעי
Matot – Moshe teaches the rules and restrictions regarding the role of a father or a husband in the upholding or nullification of their wives’ or daughters’ vows.
B’nei Yisrael wages war against Midian, kill Bilam, the five Midianite kings and all the men. Moshe is upset that the women were taken captive since they were catalysts for the immoral behavior of the Jewish people. Moshe therefore rebukes the officers. The spoils of war are counted and apportioned. The commanding officers report to Moshe 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 Moshe to allow them to remain east of the Jordan and not receive a portion of land west of the Jordan River. They explain that the land east of the Jordan is quite suitable grazing land for their livestock. Moshe’s 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 Moshe 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. Moshe grants their request on condition that they uphold their part of the deal to fight with all of Israel until it is conquered.
Masei – The Torah names all 42 encampments of B’nei Yisrael on their 40 year journey from the Exodus until the crossing of the Jordan River into Eretz Yisrael. G-d commands B’nei Yisrael to drive out the Canaanites from Eretz Yisrael and to demolish every vestige of their idolatry. B’nei Yisrael is warned that if they fail to rid the Land completely of the Canaanites, those who remain will be “pins in their eyes and thorns in their sides.” The boundaries of the Land of Israel are defined, and the tribes are commanded to set aside 48 cities for the levi’im, who do not receive a regular portion in the division of the Land. Cities of refuge are to be established; someone who murders unintentionally may flee there. The daughters of Tzelofchad marry members of their tribe so that their inheritance will stay in their own tribe. Thus, ends the Book of Bamidbar/Numbers, the fourth book of the Torah.
MAFTIR Numbers 36:11-13 ~ page 724
HAFTARAH Jeremiah 2:4 –28; 3:4 ~ page 725-729
This is the second of the “Three Tragic Haftarot” read during the Three Weeks. It is the continuation of last week’s haftarah. These two haftarot are the only continuous portions of the Prophets read as haftarahs on consecutive weeks. G-d, speaking through the prophet, chastises the people of Israel for the terrible double sin of forsaking Him AND turning to false gods. Repeatedly, we are asked how it was possible that we turned away from G-d. Terrible punishment for this betrayal of G-d is prophesied. The haftarah ends on the hopeful note that if we return to G-d, then He will return to us and restore His special relationship with us.
Parashah Study Questions
1. July 4th, 1776 coincided with the Fast of the 17th of Tamuz. How does this relate to any Jewish view of the establishment of the United States?
2. Who were Francis Salvador and Haym Solomon and what were their contributions to the establishment of independence of the United States?
3. What National and Jewish event was observed on July 4th , 1976?
4. Who were “The Jews of St. Eustatius” and what was their role in the Revolutionary War?
5. What is the halachic issue this year with the celebration of The Fourth of July with music?