Welcome to this week’s Torah portion – Parasha Matot-Masei.
Two Parshiot are combined this week to accommodate the schedule of Torah readings for the Jewish year 5779. Please study this double portion along with us. We know you will be blessed!
· Numbers 30:2–36:13
· Jeremiah 2:4–28, 3:4, 4:1–2
· Matthew 23:1–25:46
"Moses said to the heads of the tribes (matot) of Israel: 'This is what YAHUVEH commands: When a man makes a vow to YAHUVEH or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said." (Numbers 30:1–2)
Last week, in Parasha Pinchas, YAHUVEH rewarded Aaron’s grandson, Pinchas (Phinehas), a pact of peace and everlasting priesthood in response to his zeal for YAHUVEH.
In this week’s double Torah Portion (Parasha) of Matot-Masei, the Israelites are coming to an end of their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.
Both Miriam and Aaron, the sister and brother of Moses, have died in the desert; and Moses, in preparing for the end of his life in the desert as well, has passed on the mantle of leadership to his successor — Yahushua (Joshua).
This week’s reading begins with the laws regarding vows and oaths, emphasizing our responsibility to be a people who keep our word and do what we have promised.
YAHUVEH goes on to command Moses to take vengeance on the Midianites in retaliation for their seducing the Israelites at Baal-peor. Both Balak, the King of Moab, and Balaam, who had advised that Israel would be cursed if they were drawn into sin, are killed in this battle.
After the battle, a massive quantity of booty is distributed to the soldiers, and a share is designated for the sanctuary.
Settlement on East Bank of the Jordan
As the tribes of Israel prepare to cross over the Jordan River into the Promised Land, the tribes of Reuven, Gad, and half of Manasseh approach Moses requesting permission to settle on the east side of the Jordan in the territories captured from Sichon and Og (Numbers 32:1–5).
Moses is at first disturbed by this request, accusing them of wanting to shirk their responsibility in following through on taking the Promised Land in obedience to YAH’s command.
He asks these tribes, “Shall your brethren go to war while you sit here?” (Numbers 32:6)
He compares them to the ten spies who came back with a bad report, bringing calamity on Israel. His concern is that their actions will discourage the Israelites from taking the Land.
However, these tribes have no intention of avoiding battle; they just prefer the land on the east side of the Jordan since it is suitable for their large herds and flocks of livestock.
They are not only willing to go into battle, they pledge to go ahead of the Israelites as shock troops to take the Land.
“We will arm ourselves for battle and go ahead of the Israelites until we have brought them to their place .... We will not return to our homes until each of the Israelites has received their inheritance.” (Numbers 32:17–18)
When Moses understands their motivation and the full plan, he agrees to their request and YAHUVEH awards them their inheritance on the east side of the Jordan.
We can understand from this that Israel’s inheritance extends beyond the Jordan River.
This event also reminds each of us to patiently listen to a person’s reasoning when their request seems to be in conflict with a perceived goal. We should not prejudge motivation and outcomes.
Administering the Inheritance
As if to affirm the coming victory in the Promised Land, YAHUVEH assigns a leader for each of the nine and a half tribes who will be in charge of administering the inheritance of the land of Canaan (west of the Jordan River) among the people.
In addition to this, YAHUVEH also instructs the people to drive out all the inhabitants of the Land once they receive it. He warns them:
“If you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall be that those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell.” (Numbers 33:55)
However, when the Israelites crossed the Jordan, many times they made treaties or allowed the Canaanites to dwell among them, where they continued practicing their pagan rituals. In time, these groups either led the Israelites back into pagan practices or tried to attack them from within.
Today, some believe the Jewish People have no right to the land, but in this Parasha, we see the Creator of the Universe fulfills the promise HE made to Jacob all those years earlier:
“The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.” (Genesis 35:12)
The Boundaries of Israel
“Then YAHUVEH spoke to Moses, saying, “Command the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land of Canaan, this is the land that shall fall to you as an inheritance — the land of Canaan to its boundaries.” (Numbers 34:1–2)
As the Creator of the Universe, YAHUVEH has the right to set the boundaries for the nations that HE created. In this week’s Parasha, YAHUVEH sets the borders of the territory of Israel, which are far larger than what Israel has settled today.
Fully inhabiting our inheritance of Judea and Samaria and even east Jerusalem may seem impossible with the creation of a Palestinian State, but when the MASHIACH returns, there will be a redistribution of land to the Twelve Tribes, and the world will plainly see the extent of Israel's borders(Ezekiel 47:15–21).
At that time, says YAHUVEH, “when I have brought them back from the nations and have gathered them from the countries of their enemies, I will be proved holy through them in the sight of many nations.” (Ezekiel 39:27)
Unlike many of the foreigners who reside in the land today, after the war of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38–39)those who remain will have reverence for the GOD of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and no other; therefore, as fellow Believers, YAH makes them inheritors as well.
“You are to allot [the land] as an inheritance for yourselves and for the foreigners residing among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel.” (Ezekiel 47:22)
Jeremiah Warns Israel of the Coming Exile
The Prophetic reading (Haftarah) for this week is the second of the three “Haftarot of Admonition,” which are read during the Three Weeks.
During this three-week period between the 17th of Tammuz and the 5th of Av on the Jewish calendar, we remember that the walls of Jerusalem were breached and the Temple was destroyed.
The Prophet Jeremiah had been warning about the impending destruction of the Holy Temple and of Jerusalem for at least a few decades leading up to the Babylonian invasion.
In this reading, he details the terrible sins of the kings and the people that led to that destruction.
“As the thief is ashamed when he is found out, So is the house of Israel ashamed; They and their kings and their princes, and their priests and their prophets, Saying to a tree, ‘You are my father,’ And to a stone, ‘You gave birth to me.’ For they have turned their back to Me, and not their face.
“But in the time of their trouble they will say, ‘Arise and save us.’ But where are your gods that you have made for yourselves? Let them arise, if they can save you in the time of your trouble.” (Jeremiah 2:26–28)