Tuesday, July 19, 2011

parashah 42 - Mattot (Tribes) - Tom D.

As I read the parashah, it seems to me that obedience is the overriding theme throughout.

We do see in chapter 30:2 - 17 (1 - 16) the instructions regarding vows to the Lord.  The first thing I notice is that when a man makes a vow there is no getting out of it; he is required to fulfill it.  This seems to be a narrow ruling, and I suppose it is to restrict lightly said (or not thought out, like Jephthah) oaths, for it seems there is no such thing as a light vow to the Almighty.  It also appears that Yeshua put a further restriction on it when He said,  

       "Again you have heard that it has been said by them of old time, 'You shall not 
       forswear yourself, but shall perform unto the Lord your oaths:' but I say unto you, 
       swear not at all; neither by Heaven; for it is God's throne: nor by the earth; for it 
       is His footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.  Neither 
       shall you swear by your head, because you can't make one hair white or black.  
       But let your communication be, 'Yea, yea; nay, nay:' for whatsoever is more than 
       these comes of evil.  (Mt. 5:33 - 37)

Our word is supposed to be as sure as His Word; if it is spoken, then it needs to come to pass.

At the same time, the man is to be the covering for his wife or for his minor daughter.  If she makes a vow, and the husband/father expresses disapproval before the next day (sunset), then we are told in Numbers 30:6 (5) and 9 (8) that none of the vows or obligations will stand and that the woman will be forgiven.  As I read the Word here, there is no obligation for anyone to fulfill them, for the woman has been forgiven.

It is a different situation if the husband, and I assume father though it does not expressly say so in verses 15 - 16 (14 - 15), holds his peace with her beyond the beginning of the next day.  If he voids them after that, the woman is under no obligation to fulfill them, but, he will bear her iniquity.  Again we see the importance of obedience.  Furthermore, these rulings are not for the man to control his wife/daughter, but for their protection. 

A woman who is a widow or divorced does not have the covering of a husband/father, and we are therefore told that what she vows, she is obligated to perform.  This does make me wonder about a girl who is betrothed to a man who then dies prior to the consummation of the marriage.  Is she then considered as a widow or is she back under the protection of her father?

Chapter 31 deals with another area of obedience - dealing with Midian according to the instructions HaShem gave Moses.  All the males of Midian were killed, their kings and princes, and Balaam.  The women and the children were taken captive along with the cattle, flocks, and all their goods.  Moses was wroth with all the leaders from the battle for taking the women, for they were the ones who caused Israel to trespass against the Lord, according to the counsel of Balaam.

Midian must have been a sizable people, for even after killing all the non-virgins and male children there were still 32,000 women.  The twelve thousand of Israel defeated a much larger force without the loss of one man (vs. 49).  God was faithful even though the armed force was not, especially the leadership.

Moses and Eleazar were faithful to perform all that the Almighty had instructed them regarding the distribution of the  all that was captured (vs. 31, 41, and 47).  The civil and levitical leadership are showing themselves as obedient - a good example hopefully to everyone else.

Chapter 32 deals with the obedience of all the tribes entering Eretz Yisra'el.  There seems to be a problem though, as the tribes of Reuben and Gad want to stay on the east side of the Jordan.  Verse 5 must have been especially galling to Moses as he recalled the disobedience from 40 years before, "...if we have found grace in your sight, let this land be given unto your servants for a possession and bring us not over Jordan."  As it says in Numbers 14:31, "But your little ones, who you said would be taken as booty - them I will bring in."

Moses knows he is about to die, and by all appearances, at least two of the tribes have not learned from the previous errors.  However, the leaders of Reuben and Gad state that though they want to stay in Trans-Jordan, they are also willing to go into the land at the head of all the people - their two tribes will lead the way.  This is obedience and faithfulness personified.  

To ensure their faithfulness to their vow to go in first, Moses informs Eleazar, Joshua, all the clan leaders of the other tribes of the arrangement.  However, if the Reubenites and Gadites fail to lead the way, they will not receive the land of Gilead in the Trans-Jordan, but their inheritance will be in Canaan along with every other tribe.  Their obedience to their vow is imperative.

As I stated at the beginning, obedience seems to carry the day in this parashah.  However, being cautious with our vows and promises is just as important today as it was then.  Obedience, we are told, is better than sacrifice.  It does not eliminate sacrifice, it just has a higher ranking as He ranks them.

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