Torah Reading: Mattot (Tribes) Masa’ei (Stages) B’Midbar/Numbers 30:2-36:13 Haftorah Readings Jeremiah 1:1-2:28
1.In Numbers/B’Midbar Chapter 33:1 it says, “These are the journeys of the people of Israel which went forth out of the land of Egypt with their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron.” Why do you think G-d used the plural – journeys in this statement?
It would seem G-d is saying each segment or each journey in itself moved them through another stage bringing them closer to Israel. Each built upon itself. I read a quote that makes this point. “It’s not the milestones we reach, but the stones we encounter along the miles that define us and make us who we are. Our physical and spiritual lives are a series of journeys. Each journey is to prepare us for the next level.
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. Sometimes we may need to draw a line, when to say firmly, “No! This is not who I am or not part of G-d’s plan for me.” We need to distinguish between what is helping us get closer to our “Promised Land,” and what is just serving as distractions or detours. Personal boundaries are physical, emotional, or spiritual limits that define us as separate from others. Setting boundaries means that instead of taking on other people’s beliefs, standards and feelings, we become in tune with our own. We learn to develop a more solid sense of who we are and make decisions that help us become who G-d called us to be. I pray each of you spiritual success in your journeys as we all move along on G-d’s journey
2.In chapter 33 we read an entire chapter where Moshe goes over every place Israel stopped on their 40 year travel through the desert. Why do you think Moshe took an entire chapter to recount where they had been?
I believe it was a way to recount the love story of G-d and His people. He was always with them. They had overcome difficulties through the past 40 years with His help. It was a way of reliving and remembering all that G-d did for them over the years. He fed them, gave them water, provided for them, protected them and chastised them.
Think of your own life. We all know G-d loves us but sometimes we falter. Each of us have a life in the desert so to speak. It is helpful to reflect on how G-d never left us, was always there with us, loving us, providing for us, protecting us and sometimes chastising us. So I think this chapter is G-d’s love letter to Israel. This should be an encouragement to us. For us He says the same. It is good to reflect often on our lives and journey with the Father. It is important to relive those time when the hand of G-d was evident in our lives. Some of these times we might not have been aware of G-d’s work in our lives until years later. It is an encouragement to know our Father loves us and never brushes us off when we come to Him. From this chapter Israel saw that and from our lives we can see it too. Thank G-d Almighty He loves us and is always with us.
There were 42 stops in all, and with the exception of two men, all the people who entered the Promise Land had been born during the 40 year travel, not in Egypt.
3.In Numbers 30:4-16 we read when a woman’s vow is binding and how that might be voided. From our reading we see if the husband or father takes immediate action he can void her vow. However, if he is silent, waiting for a day or longer what happens? He loses the ability to void her vow. Why would it matter if he waits for a bit? Why can he not exercise that power later?
It would seem that Torah is saying silence is consent. By not saying something quickly he gives the appearance of being a partner in her vow. Now the question is, so what? Why does this matter to us today? What is G-d saying through these verses?
Every day we are faced with people and issues that call for a response from the people of G-d. In the movie, “Gentleman’s Agreement,” the lead character is a reporter who pretends to be Jewish for a while to see what reaction he gets from people he meets in his job, most of whom are or think they are, justified in their prejudice. What is most distressing are the “good” people who remain silent when they hear the awful words spoken, jokes told or see the disgusting actions taken by bigots. By remaining silent it is as if they agree with what was said or the actions that took place. Silence is assent.
My point is, as people who know, as people of G-d, we should become active in speaking against the wrongs that go on around us every day. To sit and talk about how awful something was and only do that with people who agree with us isn’t enough. I would urge each of us to find our voice and become vocal about those things that are going on in our society that are not in agreement with our faith. We are called to be G-d’s partners in redeeming this world. We are called to stand up for those who are hungry, sick, without a voice or power in our world. By being silent it is as if we are partners to their suffering. There is no neutrality. Silence is assent.
Another lesson we can draw from this section on vows is that words have power. G-d sees our words as an expression of our heart. B’Midbar 30:2-3 tells us what comes out of our mouths we must do. The power of words! The effect of words is a common topic in scripture. What comes out of our mouth is important and powerful.
4.In Numbers 31:1-3 we read where HaShem commands Moshe to “take vengeance on the Midianites for the children of Israel.” Then in verse 3 we read Moshe telling the people, “go against the Midianites to take vengeance for the L-rd on Midian.” How are we to understand the difference in these two commands?
Two different views of one situation are what we have in this passage today. G-d’s perspective was taking vengeance for the sake of His Covenant people Israel. Moshe’s perspective was taking vengeance on Midian for slandering the name of G-d, same action but two different perspectives.
As believers we undertake G-d’s direction in our lives and set out on our journey to do His will. We see and love G-d for what He did for us. Our challenge is to maintain that perspective. Often life happens and we can find ourselves going through the motions and losing sight of why we live and go about our lives a certain way. We find we have lost sight of why we do what we do. We should always be aware of our role to bring glory to the Father and not just go about our lives doing things out of habit. Losing our way can cause us to reflect ourselves instead of our Maker. It is important for us to take stock of our lives, our motives and our hearts from time to time. It is important to reflect on who we are and why we do what we do. Is our life a reflection of Him or is it a self-serving reflection of us? Take time to reflect on what we stand for as G-d’s people and what our true goals should be. Are we on target? This will help us stay grounded and pointed in the right direction. It will add a deep sense of purpose and meaning in all we do each day. Here in these verses, Moshe saw this command of G-d, as Israel’s purpose – to sanctify the name of G-d in the war against Midian. Everything we do should have the same purpose, to introduce and bring honor to the Father. He loves us and cares for us. He is holy. We as His people are holy. We reflect His holiness. We also read in Numbers 31:8 where Bilaam was killed in this battle as well.
5.This week we see in Numbers 35:2-3 the Levites were not given territorial land holdings like the other tribes. Why do you think they did not receive specific property to live on but instead each tribe gave them cities to live in and space for their livestock?
This means they did not live together as a tribe but were scattered in among the other tribes. In Deuteronomy 18:1-2 it says the Levitical priests, the whole tribe of Levi, shall have no territorial portion with Israel. They shall live only off the L-rd’s offering by fire as their portion…the L-rd is their portion.”
So when they were not on duty at the Sanctuary, assisting the priests with sacrifices, or singing and playing instruments, what exactly were they doing? Why were they scattered throughout the land?
They were responsible for teaching the ordinary Israelites about the worship and service of HaShem, for explaining the Torah and reminding them about each festival. When Moses blessed the Levites before he died in D’varim 33:10 he said, “They shall teach Jacob your judgments, and Israel you Torah; they shall put incense before you, and whole burnt sacrifice upon your altar. What does this mean to us? It means we should follow the Levites example and share our faith with people we meet, people around us. How can the followers of Yeshua today teach, influence and be a witness to the world if we isolate ourselves in our little Christian bubble?
HAZAK, HAZAK, V’NIT’CHAZEK!
BE STRONG, BE STRONG, AND LET US BE STRENGTHENED!