Friday, August 5, 2016

Parshas Matos-Masei

This Week’s 1st Parsha – Matos:

This week, there is a double-parsha – Matos and Masei.  Of course, we will start with Parshas Matos, and so, one of this week’s parshios is Matos.  At first, it discusses vows.  The concept of a vow is sort of strange, as a person can say something, and it then becomes binding for them.  Actually, this is how it works whenever we say something.  However, I guess a vow – swearing by Hashem’s Holy Name – adds weight to our words which might help us remember what we said.  Actually, HaRav Aharon Kotler zt”l and the Bostoner Rebbe (Rebbe Meir Alter Horowitz shlita) discuss the fact that the concept of vows comes to teach us the power of our speech.1  As we have discussed before, Hashem has given people the unique power of speech, and He has given Jews special things to use their speech for.  The Sages teach in the Gemara (Chagigah 5b) that in the hour of Judgement (when a person goes before Hashem after they die), even the light conversation between a husband and wife will be brought before them.  The holy Chofetz Chaim (HaRav Yisroel Meir HaKohen Kagan zt”l) added in his book Zechor L’Miriam that every single word a person spoke will be brought before them, and they will be asked why they spoke it.2  And we will have to give Hashem an answer.  What will we say when He asks why we spoke such-and-such devarim biteilim/wasted words?  Every person must be heedful of what they speak, knowing that Hashem hears every single thing which we say.  He also taught in his book Kavod Shamayim, that if a person, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid uses their speech for bad things, they are basically not a person.  Rather, they are just like an animal, which can’t speak.3  Think about this.  If a person really took heed of these things, and took all these messages to heart, they would likely not use their speech for bad things, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid.  We should try to do this!  And may Hashem help every person to, in fact, take all these messages, and put them into action always, Amein, so may it be His Will. 
Now on to the parsha:  The first passuk/verse is ‘Vayi’daber Moshe el rashei matos li’Vnei Yisroel leimor, zeh hadavar asher tzivah Hashem/And Moshe spoke to the heads of the Tribes of the B’nei Yisroel, saying; this is the matter that Hashem has commanded.’  There is a beautiful Chassidishe gem on this, which explains that we can learn a nice lesson from this passuk/verse:  The word ‘davar’ is translated here as ‘matter’, but it can also mean ‘word’.  If we translate ‘davar’ in this verse as ‘word’, then we can translate it ‘this is the word that Hashem has commanded’.  This teaches us, this Chassidishe Master explains, that before one says something, they must think; “is ‘this the word that Hashem has commanded’?”  We must remember this lesson, and think along these lines before we say something.  “Is what I am about to say a good thing, or not?”  These thoughts should enter our mind before we say something.4  Please, we must all try to take this message to heart and, B’Eizer Hashem/With the Help of Hashem, put them into action. 
Back to the parsha:  So then the Torah goes on to talk about Nedarim/vows.  The Torah teaches that if somebody takes a vow ‘lo yachel di’varo, ki’chol ha’yotzei mi’piv, yaaseh/he shall not profane his word (meaning not breaking their word), like all that comes out of his mouth, he shall do.’  There is a beautiful Mefaraish/commentary from HaRav Chaim Vital zt”l, the Noam Elimelech (Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk zt”l), and the Maggid of Kozhnitz (Rebbe Yisroel Haupstein zt”l) on this:  They note that this verse seems to be repetitive; first it says that a person shouldn’t profane their word (not break it), and then it says that ‘all that goes out from his mouth, he shall do’.  But this verse teaches us, they explain, that one who does not break their word (lo yachel di’varo), all that goes out from their mouth, He will do.  Who will do?  Hashem will do!5  Meaning that if a person makes sure that they never break their word, they don’t tell lies, etc. then what they say they want to happen, or Daven for to happen, Hashem will make happen!  Imagine this!  Look at the greatness of one who guards their tongue.  We should all have the merit to do this, Amein.  Back to the parsha:  The Torah discusses that if a girl in her father’s house takes a vow or something like that, and if her father heard about the stuff, and was silent (i.e. he didn’t nullify them), then all her vows that she made and things like that stand.  However, if her father restrained her (which Rashi explains to mean that he nullified the vows) on the day which he heard about them, then the vows and things like that which she imposed on herself don’t stand.  The rule is very similar to if a woman takes a vow, what her husband can do.  However, as we are taught in Gemara Nedarim, only certain kinds of vows can be annulled by a husband, which are:  Vows of affliction or things like that, and vows which affect things between a husband and a wife.  These rules are discussed in the Gemara, and it would be worthwhile to check them out. 

Back to the parsha:  Any vow which a widow or divorced woman makes stands.  Rashi quotes from Nedarim 70a, which explains that it is because, then, she is neither in her father’s house nor in her husband’s house.  So nobody can annul the vows.  (Though there are lots of other rules about vows that can be learned in Gemara Nedarim, such as a ‘Pesach/opening’ on a neder/vow).  After the part of the parsha talking about vows, Hashem tells Moshe to take vengeance for the Jews against the Midianim, and afterwards he would die.  And Moshe told the Jews to arm men for the army that they could be against Midian, and carry out the vengeance of Hashem.  Why did Moshe tell the Jews to take revenge for Hashem, when Hashem said to take vengeance for the Jews?  The Chassidishe Masters explain beautifully that Hashem’s foremost concern is the Jews, so He considered this war vengeance for them.  But the Jews’ foremost concern is for Hashem, and so they considered this war vengeance for Hashem.6  What a beautiful explanation!  This is how things are supposed to work.  But sometimes, our first concern seems to be us!  Ah, but we learn that our foremost concern must be for Hashem – serving Him, etc.  We do not need to care about ourselves too much; that is not what life is about.  We were created to serve Hashem.  This is life. 
Back to the parsha:  A thousand people from each Tribe of the Jews were to go out to the war with Midian.  This was, as we know, a total of 12,000 armed men.  Hashem helped the Jews, and they beat the Midianim (they also killed the Midiani five kings and Bilaam).  In his book, Me’am Loeiz, HaRav Yaakov Culi zt”l explains that the numbers of the Jews teach a lesson:  The Jews were going out to a battle with only 12,000 men, yet they totally crushed the Midianim!  Moshe wanted to demonstrate to the Jews that it is not the amount of people fighting that makes the difference, but rather, how good people they are.7  Man-power is not what wins a battle, but rather, it is Hashem Who decides.  This reminds me of a beautiful story I heard a short time ago from Rebbe Avraham Schorr shlita:  There was a rocket launched by the Arabs, aimed at a shopping center in Israel with a lot of people.  The Israeli army fired three Iron Dome missiles (missiles that Israel fires to stop any foreign rockets) to stop the rocket, but they all missed.  The army sent firemen and ambulances to the shopping center, as they knew that the rocket would cause lots of casualties, and they couldn’t stop it.  After the army had given up trying to stop the rocket, out of nowhere, a big east wind came up; it blew the deadly rocket into the sea, and nobody got hurt, Baruch Hashem.  The man who had fired the Iron Dome missiles to stop the rocket (which had failed) was not totally a Frum Jew, and he had never put Tefillin on before.  After seeing Hashem save us, he thought that, in effect, he had seen Hashem, and he yelled “Get me Teffilin!  Get me Teffilin!"8  The Israeli army couldn’t stop the Arab rocket from killing lots and lots of Jews, but Hashem did!  Blessed is Hashem Who always protects His People, Amein, vi'Amein! 
Now back to the parsha:  The Jews took the Midiani women, and their children captive, and they took all their animals and possessions.  They also set fire to their cities and castles.  And the Jews who went out to war brought the captives and all the stuff to Moshe, Elazar the Kohen, and all the Jews.  Moshe became angry with the people who had gone out to the war, because they had let the women live, and had only taken them captive.  He gave them specific instructions for who to kill of the captives, and who not to kill.  Moshe also told the people that whoever had killed a person or touched a corpse should encamp outside the Camp for seven days, and on the third and seventh day of this period, they should cleanse themselves, (which Rashi explains to mean to cleanse themselves through the sprinkling waters).  Also certain vessels had to be purified.  Elazar the Kohen spoke to the Jews, and told them that ‘this is the decree of the Torah, that Hashem commanded Moshe’.  Any gold, silver, copper, iron, tin or lead vessel, whatever was used in fire had to be passed through fire to be cleansed.  Rashi explains that ‘used in fire’ means it was used for cooking.  But the vessels also had to be cleansed with the sprinkling waters.  Okay, one last Mefaraish/commentary for the Parshas Matos parsha report: 
Rebbe Nachman M’Breslov zt”l explains that the rule that a vessel which was used in fire must be passed through fire to become pure, teaches us a beautiful lesson:  This teaches us, he explains beautifully, that one who does sins with fire, i.e. with passion, how do they cleanse themselves?  Ah, this verse teaches us, says Rebbe Nachman zt”l, that they can cleanse themselves by doing good things and serving Hashem with fire, i.e. passion.9  Serving Hashem with passion is very important always.  Don’t do it with coldness and distantness, serve Hashem with passion and closeness to Him always.  Hashem should help every person do this always, Amein, so may it be His Will.  The Torah discusses some other topics in this parsha, but let us move on to the other parsha of the week – Parshas Masei.  There are 112 pessukim/verses in Parshas Matos. 

This Week’s 2nd Parsha – Masei:

This week’s other parsha is Masei, and part of it discusses the travels of the Jews.  The holy Baal Shem Tov (Rebbe Yisroel ben Eliezer zt”l) explained that the forty-two journeys which are enumerated in this parsha, represent the forty-two “journey’s” which everybody goes through in life.10  We cannot stay in one place forever; in life, a person is supposed to move forward in their service of Hashem, He is Blessed.  You must go from one place to another – not just physically, but spiritually.  And you can’t be scared to do so.  That is just how life works!  And if you do not spiritually “travel”, how will you get anywhere?  You won’t move forward.  You will then just stay in one place in your service of Hashem.  And, also, one must understand what a journey is:  A journey is not just for no reason; there is always somewhere to get to.  Each journey has a destination.  Meaning that each journey that a person has in life is to get to a place where they are supposed to be.  And there is something to be done there.  Once that mission is fulfilled, you can journey to the next place.  We should all remember this:  Each place we find ourselves in life; Hashem put us there for a reason, and we have something to accomplish there.  And in our spiritual lives, we must also journey forward in serving Hashem.  So, as we see from things, journeying (spiritually) in life is very, very important.  Hashem should help us all to take the messages of every single journey we have, and help us move forward in life always, Amein. 
Now on to the parsha:  The first passuk/verse in this parsha is ‘Aileh masei V’nei Yisroel asher yatz’i’u mei’eretz Mitzraim li’tzivosam, bi’yad Moshe vi’Aharon/These are the journeys of the B’nei Yisroel who went out from the land of Egypt in their armies, under the hand (authority) of Moshe and Aharon.’  There are a couple of Mefarshim/commentaries which I will list here:  1) The Maggid of Kozhnitz (Rebbe Yisroel Haupstein zt”l) explains that a lot of people try to become great people and try to journey to great levels, but they do not reach their goals!  Why does this happen?  Because they did not do Teshuva for their past sins.  You must first scrub yourself off of your old sins (by doing Teshuva) in order to be able to reach the higher levels.  This we learn from this verse, he explains, because it says ‘These are the journeys of the of the B’nei Yisroel who went out of Egypt... etc.’  Teaching us that in order to journey forward in holiness, one must first ‘go out from Egypt’ (Egypt representing impurity).11  2) There is a Chassidishe Gem on this, which says that, as we know, Rashi (on Parshas Mishpatim) quotes from the Midrash, which explains that when the word ‘Aileh/These’ starts a parsha, it means to tell us that this new topic is not really connected to the last topic discussed in the last parsha.  So, says this Chassidishe Master, the fact that this parsha, which discusses the Jews’ journeys starts with the word ‘Aileh/These’, teaches us how we must journey forward in life.  Don’t just say “I have already done good stuff; I don’t need to do much more.”  This verse teaches not to say this.  Because the part with journeys, is not connected to what happened before in the last parsha.  Thus teaching us, explains this Chassidishe Master beautifully, that one must journey forward in serving Hashem always, and not think back to the good things they have done before.12  Keep going forward; don’t stop and think that you have already done plenty.  And what a beautiful lesson this is for everybody! 

Now back to the parsha:  Moshe recorded the Jews’ journeys, according to the word of Hashem.  And the Torah lists the Jews’ journeys, from Mitzraim/Egypt until where they were.  At the beginning of Sheini/the second Aliyah, Hashem speaks to Moshe and tells him to tell the Jews that when they cross over the Yordein/Jordan, they have to drive out the inhabitants of the land, destroy the temples (of idol worship), destroy their idols, and demolish their high places.  We were supposed to clear the Land and settle in it, because Hashem gave it to us to occupy it.  We can’t let the places of avodah zarah/idol worship stay there; the Land of Israel is supposed to be holy!  It is the Land which Hashem especially gave to us.  Anyway, the Land was to be given by lot to the Jewish families as an inheritance.  To the large, a larger inheritance was to be given, and to the small, a smaller one.  And Hashem says that if we did not drive out the people from the Land of Israel, they would become like spikes in our eyes and thorns in our sides, and they would harass us in our Land!  Also, what He was going to do to them, He would do to us.  Thus, we see how bad of a thing it was to leave any of them in the precious and holy Land of Israel.  Hashem then tells Moshe about the borders of the Land of Israel.  Rivi’i/the fourth Aliyah discusses the names of the chiefs of each Tribe, whom Hashem designated to Moshe to help him acquire the Land.  I.e. as Rashi explains, this means that they were to take possession of the Land, and help to acquire it in his stead.  At the beginning of Chamishi/the fifth Aliyah, Hashem tells Moshe to command the Jews about apportioning to Leviim things in the Land.  The Leviim were supposed to get certain cities in which to dwell, and certain land around the cities.  This parsha also discusses the Arei Miklat.  There were six Arei Miklat – three in Israel, and three on the other side of the Yordein/Jordan, (I think in the place where the Tribes of Reuven, Gad, and half of the Tribe of Menashe dwelled).  If a person killed another by accident, and they really did not mean it, then they can flee to one of these cities, and escape any blood-avenger, as they only killed the person by accident.  And they had to stay in those cities until the Kohen Gadol of that time died.  There are many commentaries on why it is specifically that, but....  Actually, you can notice a very nice thing about Parshas Masei:  It starts by talking about the Jews’ travels, starting from Egypt, and up to where they were – right outside the Land of Israel.  And then, it goes on to talk about lots of things regarding Eretz Yisroel/The Land of Israel.  So it is like the ultimate journey; from Egypt, until Israel.  From the least holy land, to the most holy land.  Think about this.  Egypt is like the thing that we want to get away from, and Israel is the goal and place where we are supposed to get to (spiritually).  There are 132 pessukim/verses in Parshas Masei. 
Chazak Chazak V’Nischazeik! 
Have a wonderful, wonderful Shabbos everyone!!!!!!!! 
Refoel Berel

1 Sparks of Torah:  Explorations and Insights on the weekly Torah portions.  Parshas Matos.  Page 108.  By HaRav Dovid Nussbaum shlita.  C.I.S. Publishers©.  Also, Bostoner Torah Insights III:  Bostoner 'Chassidus' in Hebrew and English:  Parshas Matos 24 Tammuz 5776.
2 The Concise Chafetz Chaim:  A page a day.  Page 137.  'Pearls of Life'.  By HaRav Asher Wasserman shlita.  Feldheim Publications Ltd.©
3 The Concise Chafetz Chaim:  A page a day.  Page 108.  'Pearls of Life'.  By HaRav Asher Wasserman shlita.  Feldheim Publications Ltd.©
4©.  Chassidic Gems:  Parashat Matot.  Shiur given by HaRav Ekyakim Rosenblatt shlita. 
5©.  Chassidic Gems:  Parashat Matot.  Shiur given by HaRav Ekyakim Rosenblatt shlita.  Also; Yeshiva Bircas HaTorah©.  Parshas Matos 5775.  From Eitz Hadaas Tov. 
6©.  Parshas Matot-Massei In-Depth. 
7©.  Parshas Matot-Massei In-Depth.
8©.  The Iron Dome, Miracles, and Mashiach.  Shiur given by Rebbe Avraham Schorr shlita. 
9©.  Chassidic Gems:  Parashat Matot.  Shiur given by HaRav Ekyakim Rosenblatt shlita. 
10©.  Torah-in-ten - Episode 7.  Parshas Matos-Masei.  Shiur given by Rav Chaim Miller shlita. 
11©.  Parshas Matos Masei 5775 - Our King is not in his Palace. 
12©.  Chassidic Gems:  Parashat Matot.  Shiur given by HaRav Ekyakim Rosenblatt shlita. 

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