Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Parashahs Mattos (tribes) and Masei (journey) - Bamidbar/Numbers 30:2 - 36:13


Parashah Mattos (tribes) - Bamidbar/Numbers 30:2 - 32:42
Parashah Masei (journey) - Bamidbar/Numbers 33:1 - 36:13

Parashah Mattos (tribes)
One should note that the last verse of the previous parashah (which is also the first verse of Bamidbar 30) would equally be an appropriate opening to this week’s first portion.  “Moses said to the Children of Israel according to everything that HaShem had commanded Moses.” The first verse of this week’s portion states “Moses spoke to the heads of the Children of Israel saying, ‘This is the thing that HaShem has commanded:...’”

Well, what is it that HaShem has commanded?  The balance of this chapter speaks to vows and oaths.  The Hebrew word for vow is neder ( נדר ).  Strong’s Concordance shows it as “From H5087; a promise (to God); also (concretely) a thing promised: - vow ([-ed]).”  According to the Chumash (The Stone Edition) there are two types of neder.  What we find in this chapter is a pledge to prohibit from oneself something that is permitted.  We find these delineated to a certain extent in verses 3 - 13.  The second type of vow will be noticed later on in this portion of our parashah.

From verse 14 through the end of the chapter there is an inclusion of the word “oath”.  Strong’s identifies the Hebrew word as esar (H361 es-awr’ אסּר    אסר) ; “an obligation or vow (of abstinence): - binding, bond.”  By pronouncing an oath, an individual can either prohibit him/herself or require him/herself to perform a particular act or deed.

If a man were to pronounce a vow or an oath, it is binding on him.  Should a female do the same thing, it is binding on her unless she is under the covering of a male as a daughter is under the protection of her father or alternatively, a wife is under the wings of her husband.  In these instances, the vow or oath remains in effect until the protector is made aware of said vow or oath.  Once the defender becomes aware of the vow or oath, he must decide that day whether the woman/girl is to be bound to her words or not.

Widows and divorcees, if not under the covering of a man, were to be bound by their words.  It would seem to me that if we go back to the account of Judah and Tamar, she would have been under her father’s protection while waiting for her marriage to Shelah, for Judah had told her to go back to her father’s house and to remain a widow until Shelah was of marrying age (Genesis. 38:11).

As noted earlier, there is a second type of vow (neder  נדר), one in which an individual can bind him/herself to bring an additional offering.  A splendid example of this occurs following the vengeance that Moses had the legions of troops from Israel exact upon Midian at the behest of the Lord.  Upon the completion of the war there was an appropriate splitting up of the spoils that had been taken.  However, in Bamidbar 31:48 - 52, 54, is an account of the commanders of the troops making an additional offering of thanksgiving.  This was not required, but it seems apparent that they had gotten together and agreed to offer to the Lord all the gold that they personally had taken from the spoils.

Parashah Mattos concludes with the request of the Reubenites and the Gadites to have their portion in the Trans-Jordan, the area east of the Jordan River.  After much discussion, their request was granted, provided that both tribes take a fully active role in helping the remaining tribes conquer the Land of Canaan.  Let it also be known that Moses also had two families from the tribe of Manasseh gain their possession in the Trans-Jordan as well.

Parashah Masei (journey)
This week, the parashah assigned is a double portion.  The second is Parashah Masei - journeys.  A narration of all the travels of the Children of Israel from the time they left Egypt is presented here.  Though they had apparently remained in one place for almost 38 years, there were a total of 42 journeys that the people took from the leaving of Egypt until arriving at the threshhold of the promised Land.    The journeys that the people took were to lead them to a goal, a destination.  Had they been obedient the first time, there would only have been 14 journeys which would have only lasted a matter of several months total.  As it turned out,  there would be three times as many journeys over a period of 40 years that they would have to execute before they were ready to enter the land  promised to Abraham 470 years earlier (see Gen. 15:7 and Gal. 3:17).

I find an interesting phrase used by the Lord several times following the account of the journeys:
When you cross the Jordan to the land of Canaan, ” (Numbers 33:51)
“...’When you come to the land of Canaan...’” (Num. 34:2)
...’When you cross the Jordan to the land of Canaan, ...’” (Num. 35:10).

Additionally, if we look hard enough we will see numerous instances of the phrase “you shall”.

It is about to occur!  They are going to enter the land!  The promise is about to be fulfilled, at least to some extent!  The lack of a complete fulfillment of the promise is due to the lack of the people, not HaShem.  God forbid that He would ever be slacking in the fulfillment of a promise He had made.  The complete fulfillment of this promise is still in the offing.  A partial fulfillment is not what was promised to Abraham!  May we, as grafted in branches, be faithful so as to participate in few journeys over a short period of time from now until the complete fulfillment of all His Word.

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