Weekly Portion: Matot – Masei, Numbers 30:2 – 36:13
Matos includes the laws of making and annulling vows, the surprise attack on Midian (the ’67 War wasn’t the Jewish people’s first surprise attack!) in retribution for the devastation the Midianites wreaked upon the Jewish people, the purification after the war of people and vessels, dedicating a portion of the spoils to the communal good (perhaps the first Federation campaign), the request of the tribes of Reuben and Gad for their portion of land to be east of the Jordan river (yes, Trans-Jordan/Jordan is also part of the Biblical land of Israel). Moshe objects to the request because he thinks the tribes will not take part in the conquering of the land of Israel; the tribes clarify that they will be the advance troops in the attack and thus receive permission.
Masei includes the complete list of journeys in the desert (the name of each stop hints at a deeper meaning, a lesson learned there). God commands to drive out the land’s inhabitants, to destroy their idols and to divide the land by a lottery system. God establishes the borders of the Land of Israel. New leadership is appointed, cities of the Levites and Cities of Refuge (where an accidental murderer may seek asylum) are designated. Lastly, the laws are set forth regarding accidental and willful murder as well as inheritance laws only for that generation regarding property of a couple where each came from a different tribe.
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from Twerski on Chumash by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.
The Torah tells us that when the tribes of Reuben and Gad made their request to settle east of the Jordan, they offered to be in the forefront of the army conquering the Land of Israel. They told Moses that: “pens for the flock shall we build here for our livestock and cities for our small children” (Num. 32:16).
Rashi states that the words of Gad and Reuben, placing the provisions for their livestock before that of their children, indicates that they accorded greater value to their possessions than to their children.
We may ask, how could anyone possibly give greater importance to their possessions than to their children? We may indeed be critical of Gad and Reuben, and be totally unaware that many of us are guilty of the same thing.
Today, a parent returns home from work late, and equipped with a cell phone, his mealtime with the children is interrupted. Whatever time he or she could spend with them is commandeered by business calls.
There is nothing that should take preference over our children. We must teach our children and we must discipline them, because without discipline they cannot possibly make an optimum adjustment to life. But at all times, our primary concern must be what is best for them, rather than what is best for us. If these two should conflict, the child’s welfare must be given preference.