Parshyiot Mattot-Masei 5783

July 10, 2023

Rabbi Mitchell Blank ('21)

In this week’s parashah, Moses recounts the starting points of each of the places visited by the Israelites during their 40 year trek on the way to the Promised Land. “Moses recorded the starting points as directed by the Lord (al pi Adonai )”. (Num. 33:2) For what purpose is God’s command for Moses to catalogue each station encountered as the journey nears completion and why davka by their starting points? Moses has been intimately involved in the entire journey, especially from the moment the Israelites broke camp on the 20th day of the 2nd year. (Num. 10:11) It’s not as if he needs to record the stations to remember the journey. All the treks from that point on were conducted in an intimate partnership between Moses and the Divine: “On a sign from the Lord (al pi Adonai) they made camp and on a sign from the Lord they broke camp; they observed the...

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Parashiyot Mattot-Masei 5781

July 9, 2021

Click HERE for an audio recording of this D’var Torah A D’var Torah for Parashiyot Mattot-Masei By Rabbi Lizz Goldstein (’16) Hodesh Tov. The height of summer is upon us, and with it three weeks of mourning bookended by fasting during a season we most need to be drinking plenty of fluids. I have written elsewhere before about my ambivalence over Tisha B’Av and the Three Weeks, and this year is no different. This Shabbat, we read the second of three Haftarot of Affliction, along with Parashiyot Mattot-Masei. These Haftarot admonish the Israelites for their constant idol-worship and warns of the conquering army on its way to punish them. This cycle of community dissolution and rejection of HaShem, followed by destruction and diaspora, continued in the days of the Second Temple, and so we read them in the oppressive heat of summer to remember the fall of both Temples and...

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Parashat Matot-Masei 5779

August 2, 2019

A D’var Torah for Parashat Matot-Masei By Rabbi Jill Hammer, PhD This week we have a double parashah: Matot-Masei. The name of Parashat Matot means staffs (as in big sticks). A staff is a sign of authority, and this parashah is full of reflections on tribal and patriarchal authority. As it moves through its various narratives, the parashah demonstrates how small acts of violence can lead to larger ones. The parashah opens with an explanation of the practice of nedarim or vows. This was an important Israelite practice that was open to laypeople, not only clergy. The making and keeping of a vow—such as a vow to become a nazirite and not cut your hair, or Hannah’s vow to give Samuel to the Temple—was a kind of offering practice.  It was a way of showing devotion to God and often of showing gratitude for some personal abundance or miraculous intervention one had received. However, this vowing...

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Mattot/Massei 5778

July 12, 2018

A D’var Torah for Mattot/Massei by Rabbi Heidi Hoover (AJR ’11) In this week’s Torah portion, Mattot/Massei, we have a remarkable episode. Two tribes, Reuben and Gad, look around the land where they Israelites are staying before they enter the Promised Land. They see that the land where they are is good for cattle, and they are cattle-herders. They decide this is the land they want, instead of the allotment of land they’ve been promised in Canaan. What is surprising about this portion is that we’ve taken it for granted ever since the Exodus that what the Israelites really want is to get to the Promised Land. That was the destination after the Exodus. During the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness they’ve just been waiting for the opportunity to get into the Promised Land. Or so we would think. Then along comes this passage where two tribes go...

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Parashat Mattot-Massei

July 19, 2012

Divided We Stand, United We Fall: Not Much Has Changed I recall the period following the ’67 war when many Jews, religious and not, swelled with pride, kvelled, at what “our” tiny nation in the desert, surrounded by enemies, had accomplished. Some of us, so inspired by the military miracle, made aliyah, moved there permanently. Notwithstanding the enthusiasm, the vast majority of Jews remained in their “native” lands. Little could induce most of us in the USA to emigrate because we had successfully assimilated and felt secure here. Today about half the Jews in the world live in Eretz Israel and the other half outside it. These statistics cause some Israelis to delegitimize the loyalty of those of us outside. But the truth is that it’s always been this way. The first of this week’s double parashah, Mattot, “Tribes,” is the earliest depiction of this conflict, as two of the...

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