וְיֵעָשׂוּ כֻלָּם אֲגֻדָּה אֶחָת לַעֲשׂוֹת רְצוֹנְךָ בְּלֵבָב שָׁלֵם

All shall unite to do God's will with an open heart.

וְיֵעָשׂוּ כֻלָּם אֲגֻדָּה אֶחָת לַעֲשׂוֹת רְצוֹנְךָ בְּלֵבָב שָׁלֵם

All shall unite to do God's will with an open heart.

10 07, 2023

Parshyiot Mattot-Masei 5783

By |2023-07-28T10:45:30-04:00July 10, 2023|

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 Read More >

9 07, 2021

Parashiyot Mattot-Masei 5781

By |2022-07-29T11:24:19-04:00July 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 Read More >

17 07, 2020

Parashat Mattot & Ma’sey 5780

By |2022-07-29T11:24:26-04:00July 17, 2020|


A D’var Torah for Parashat Mattot
By Rabbi Matthew Goldstone

Our Torah portion this week teaches us not to promise what we cannot deliver: “If a person makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath imposing an obligation upon themself, they shall not break the pledge; they must carry out all that crossed their lips” (Num. 30:3). Despite the warning, many people make commitments that they do not end up fulfilling or give assurances for things they never intend to uphold. No wonder there is a strong tradition against taking oaths. We find this attitude in the rabbinic legal tradition when the major 16th century code of law, the Shulhan Arukh, states “Do not be accustomed to making vows and whoever vows – even if they fulfill it – is called a wicked person and is called a sinner” (Yoreh Deah 203:1). And fulfilling an oath might be even Read More >

2 08, 2019

Parashat Matot-Masei 5779

By |2022-07-29T11:24:33-04:00August 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 practice was not equally open to Read More >

12 07, 2018

Mattot/Massei 5778

By |2018-07-12T15:06:53-04:00July 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 to Moses and say, “We’re Read More >

19 07, 2012

Parashat Mattot-Massei

By |2012-07-19T17:13:30-04:00July 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 tribes, the Gadites and Reubenites, ask Read More >

21 07, 2011

Parashat Mattot

By |2011-07-21T12:16:27-04:00July 21, 2011|

By Rabbi Katy Z. Allen

Finding Our Way Out of Helplessness

Peep! Peep! Peep! The brood of baby chicks – domesticated or wild I do not know – was scurrying and moving en mass, with loose chicks running off in every direction, peeping. They kept scurrying into the street, a busy street, and it was dark out. Desperately I tried to shoo the little guys onto the sidewalk. But they kept constantly moving back and forth and this way and that way, all the time peeping, peeping, peeping. And no mother in sight. I was terribly distressed. I didn’t want them to get run over. But I didn’t know what to do! Finally, seeing the unending nature of trying to keep them off the street, I left the chicks behind and went inside.

In this week’s parashah, God tells Moses, “Avenge the Israelite people on the Midianites” (Num. 31:1). So the Read More >

7 07, 2010

Parashat Mattot-Masei

By |2010-07-07T13:47:17-04:00July 7, 2010|

By Rabbi Danny Horwitz

My wife wasn’t planning to marry me. She was back from kibbutz, saving up money in order to make aliyah. Although I had spent a year studying in Israel, as a newly ordained rabbi I was not a good candidate for aliyah and we both knew it. I loved Israel, but I believed my future was in America. Something changed her mind, and twenty-eight years and four mostly grown children later, we are still together and back in the region where we both started out.

Maybe I should have changed my plans. Maybe I should now. That’s the challenge of the Torah, at least if one takes it personally: …And you shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it. (Num. 33:53) I do accept that it is the land of our ancestors, Read More >

14 07, 2009

Parashat Mattot/Mas’ei

By |2009-07-14T20:30:23-04:00July 14, 2009|

By Jill Hackell

After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites are poised to cross the Jordan River, and to enter the Promised Land. In the previous parashah, Pinhas, a census of all individuals is taken, and Moses begins the transfer of authority to Joshua, who will lead the people in this next part of their history, the settlement of the Land, the grand finale to the Exodus from Egypt.

But, in our parashah, Mattot, the descendents of Reuben, and Gad look around, and see that the land east of the Jordan is perfect for their needs. They ask Moses, “Is it okay if we stay here to raise our cattle, rather than crossing the Jordan and being assigned land on the other side?” As Nehama Leibowitz points out, the ensuing interchange speaks volumes about the Read More >

23 07, 2008

Parashat Mattot

By |2008-07-23T09:54:53-04:00July 23, 2008|

By Sanford Olshansky

There is a saying that many stories in the Torah must be true, because if they were made up, our sages would have presented our ancient ancestors more favorably. But in this week’s Torah portion of Mattot there’s a story, a story about what we moderns would call genocide, a story so revolting that I would like to believe it’s not true.

In Numbers 31:2, God tells Moses to “get revenge for the children of Israel from the Midianites.” This refers back to an earlier instruction in Parashat Pinhas, to “afflict the Midianites” (Numbers 25:17-18) because they seduced the Israelite men, through prostitution, to worship the idol Baal Peor, as described at the end of Parashat Balak.

Moses recruits 12,000 armed men and sends them to battle. They kill all the adult Midianite men, take the women and children prisoner and burn their cities and homes. They bring the Read More >

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