Torah Portion: Matot (Tribes) & Masa’ei (Stages) (Bamidbar) Numbers 30:2-36:13
HafTorah: Jeremiah 1:1-2:28
NT Matt 5:33-37; James 4:1-12
This week we finish the book of Bamidbar (Numbers) by looking at the last two portions of the book. We are also in the third week of mourning marked by the 17th of Tammuz which commemorates the day when the Romans broke through the walls of Jerusalem and ending with the fast day of 9th of Av which was the day the Romans burned Herod’s Temple. The sages say this catastrophe occurred because of brotherly hatred where the religious hierarchy was caught up in arguing and fighting among themselves. This fighting spread to the people causing them to fight among themselves more than fighting with the Romans. This can be tied into our current Torah sections of oaths and vows found in Numbers 30:2-3. Here we see the importance of being true to our word. If we make a vow or oath using G-d as our witness, we are to do all that proceeds out of our mouth. There are a lot of examples of oaths and vows in scripture. Genesis 21:31 Abraham and Avimelech made an oath at Beersheva. In Genesis G-d takes an oath to bless Avraham. He swears by His own name. In Hebrews 6:16 we read where an oath given was the end of every dispute. The point being we are to be truthful people. We are required to keep our word even if it costs us something or is embarrassing to us. Nothing but the truth is expected from G-d people. The New Testament takes this further in that it teaches we should be so honest that our yes or no should be seen by those around us as sufficient. No further word should have to be given.
In Matthew 23:16-22 we see Yeshua rebuking people who tried to use semantics to avoid the use of G-d’s name. Using G-d’s name made any oath completely binding by bringing G-d into the transaction. In our world today words fly fast and many. People, even G-d’s people, say and vow to do things that they really never expect to carry out. My point in this is that we should live our life at such a standard of honesty that our no or yes should be all we are expected to have to say. A life lived so, relieves us of much of the stress and anxiety that comes with being so easy with our words. So I urge you to let your no be no and your yes be yes.
This week we read Matot and Masa’ei. An interesting point is that Mattot can be read two ways. It can mean tribes, like we see here, or it can mean a staff or walking stick. This ties in nicely with the journeys talked about in the second portion. What does a walking stick do for us? It makes our journey easier. What should be our walking stick? What was the walking stick of Israel? If our foundation is strong our journeys will be easier.
Now I want us to talk about these verses in Numbers 33:1-2, “Now in these are the journeys of the sons of Israel when they left Egypt.” First a word about Egypt, the Hebrew word is Mitzrim, which at its root means restricting or confining. The Hebrew word for neck is Tzuar, which has the same root. It narrows the passage between our body and our head. So in Egypt you could say G-d was allowing the Hebrews to be restricted in their lives. Later we read where there was a reason for this. They had to pass through the iron furnace to be ready for the Promised Land. This brings me back to us. Our physical and spiritual lives are a series of journeys. Each journey is to prepare us for the next level. This is how we grow in our lives. Our grandson is in a constricted place now. When he comes out he will not be the same physically or spiritually. That can be good or bad as he goes forward. It depends on how he deals with this time of restriction. How does he see it? Does he see it as a blessing or a curse? The same applies to each of us and our journeys we are all in. Sometime how long we stay depends on how we deal with the restriction. G-d is speaking to us as we are in these tight places. Israel did not get to the land in one march but had to stop along the way to be prepared for that time when they could cross the river. We are all on the way, each of us on our own collection of journeys, each of which is to bring us to that Promised Land. I pray each of you spiritual success in your journeys as we all move along on G-d’s journey