• Dvar for Matot-Maasei (Numbers 30:2-36:13)

    As the Jews approach the end of their journey through the desert, our Parsha relates the tribes of Reuven and Gad requesting to settle east of the Jordan, rather than inheriting a piece of the land of Israel. After the previous mistake of rejecting the land 40 years prior, why would they risk making the same mistake again? Then, as Moshe grants their request in exchange for fighting with their brothers on the front line, suddenly half the tribe of Menashe is included in the settlements east of the Jordan. Why would Menashe be instructed to settle there when they never asked for it, and why would only half of the tribe be included?

    Ami Silver of AlephBeta suggests that there is a subtext to these negotiations between Moshe and the tribes. When Moshe warns the two tribes that they may be punished the Torah says “vayosef od” (32:15), “and G-d will leave the nation to die in the desert again.”  To which the tribes respond by approaching Moshe (32:16-18) with their intentions to defend their brothers, just like Yehudah approached Yosef years before in defense of his brothers (Bereishit 37:22). These references coincide with the tribe of Menashe, who was named by Yosef because he represented a new beginning (Bereishit 41:51). When Moshe saw that the tribes were loyal to their brothers, he was pleased that the sibling rivalry was a thing of the past, and added Menashe as a reminder to keep looking forward. 

    By dividing Menashe’s tribe, Moshe created a connection between both sides of the Jordan River. It wasn’t just about moving forward while learning from the past, it was about doing it together, as a family. What gave Moshe the comfort that the tribes would act as a family was the way Reuven and Gad approached him to explain their position in the first place. It wasn’t adversarial, but collaborative. The lesson is far-reaching, and applies to every aspect of our lives: Respectful and thoughtful discussions among family, friends and even adversaries will lead us forward to a happy future.

  • Dvar for Matot-Maasei (Numbers 30:2-36:13)

    One of this week’s Parshiot, Parshat Maasei, lists the many places where the Jews in the desert traveled through and camped. Since the Torah doesn’t waste any words or letters, it would seem strange to list places that the Jews visited, if it meant nothing for us today. As commentaries help explain, when you love someone, you want to remember everything you did together, and G-d’s love for us is no different. This love that G-d has for us is the reason why the Torah spends so many Pessukim (verses) listing the places the Jews visited. As Rabbi Twerski asks, though, at each point the Torah says (33:1-12) that they “traveled from A and camped at B. They traveled from B and camped at C”, when it could have saved words and simply said that they camped at A, B, and C?

    Commentaries help us understand this by explaining that the forty years that the Jews spent in the desert was filled with spiritual growth, and the “travels” represented that growth. The Torah attests to the fact that not only did the Jews travel to point A, but they camped/grew there. The lesson for us is simple and true: If you want to “travel” through Torah growth, make sure you not only travel along a solid path, but make sure you “camp” at every stage, and make sure you’re comfortable with it, before you move onto another level. For example, you can’t jump to Kaballah (mysticism) before you know Halacha (law) and Talmud. There’s a  process that requires “camping” at every step of the way. So before we venture off to see the wonderful sites the Torah has to offer, make sure you take a road map (Torah), a guide (Rabbi), and patience. Only then will you truly enjoy the life camping adventure.

  • Dvar for Matot-Maasei (Numbers 30:2-36:13)

    One of this week’s Parshiot, Parshat Maasei, lists the many places where the Jews in the desert traveled through and camped. Since the Torah doesn’t waste any words or letters, it would seem strange to list places that the Jews visited, if it meant nothing for us today. As commentaries help explain, when you love someone, you want to remember everything you did together, and G-d’s love for us is no different. This love that G-d has for us is the reason why the Torah spends so many Pessukim (verses) listing the places the Jews visited. As Rabbi Twerski asks, though, at each point the Torah says (33:1-12) that they “traveled from A and camped at B. They traveled from B and camped at C”, when it could have saved words and simply said that they camped at A, B, and C?

    Commentaries help us understand this by explaining that the forty years that the Jews spent in the desert was filled with spiritual growth, and the “travels” represented that growth. The Torah attests to the fact that not only did the Jews travel to point A, but they camped/grew there. The lesson for us is simple and true: If you want to “travel” through Torah growth, make sure you not only travel along a solid path, but make sure you “camp” at every stage, and make sure you’re comfortable with it, before you move onto another level. For example, you can’t jump to Kaballah (mysticism) before you know Halacha (law) and Talmud. There’s a  process that requires “camping” at every step of the way. So before we venture off to see the wonderful sites the Torah has to offer, make sure you take a road map (Torah), a guide (Rabbi), and patience. Only then will you truly enjoy the ride.

  • Dvar for Matot-Maasei (Numbers 30:2-36:13)

    After Moshe lost an entire generation of Jews because they resisted entering the land of Israel, in Parshat Matot they seem to be doing the exact same thing. As they prepare to enter the land, the shevatim (tribes) of Reuven and Gad approach Moshe with a similar request. This time they claim to want to “build for their flocks and cities for the small children” (32:16). After warning them not to make the same mistake as the previous generation, Moshe agrees to let them live outside of the Promised Land, but appears to bargain with them by getting them to agree to help the others fight for the land first. Why did Moshe agree to let them live outside of the promised land, and what did he bargain for?

    A closer inspection of the dialogue helps us answer these questions, and can help us understand the importance of setting priorities. When Moshe responds to them (32:24), he tells them to “build for yourselves cities for your small children and pens for your flocks”, exactly the opposite order in which they asked. What Moshe was really telling them was that if they’re really looking out for the well-being of their children, then look after them (i.e. their perspectives) before building yourselves cities and buildings. This can also be why he allowed them to settle outside the Land altogether: Moshe understood that it wasn’t that the tribes lacked faith in their destiny, because they were willing to fight for it with everyone else, but rather that from their perspective living right outside the Land would be better for them logistically. Being able to accept other perspectives, despite initial fears and uncertainties, is the true test of being a thoughtful Jew, a positive parent and an understanding person.

  • Daily Aliya for Massei, Shvii (7th Aliya)

    In last week’s reading, G‑d instructed Moshe to give the daughters of the deceased Zelophehad his portion in the land of Israel. The elders of Zelophehad’s tribe now protested that this would cause Zelophehad’s sons — who could possibly be of another tribe — to inherit their mother’s properties, thus possibly transferring land from the portion of their tribe to another. G‑d therefore instructs Zelophehad’s daughters to marry men from their own tribe, so the land they inherit will remain in their ancestral tribe.

  • Daily Aliya for Massei, Shishi (6th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: The Jews are commanded to designate six cities of refuge. These cities offer refuge to a person who inadvertently kills another. The murderer must remain in the city of refuge until the death of the serving High Priest. The Jews are enjoined not to take “blood money” from a — intentional or unintentional — murderer who wishes to lighten his sentence.

    Strict adherence to all rules of justice assure us continued “quality living” in Israel, accompanied by the Divine Presence.

  • Daily Aliya for Massei, Chamishi (5th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: The Jews are commanded to provide the Levites with 48 cities where they would dwell — 42 cities plus the six cities of refuge which would be designated. Along with these cities, the Levites were given expanses surrounding the cities for their cattle.

    Note that the measure of 2000 amot as “city limit” was subsequently borrowed by the Sages in fixing the distance outside the dwelling place that a person may walk on Shabbat.

  • Daily Aliya for Massei, Revii (4th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: G‑d appoints a representative from each tribe to divide his tribe’s portion of land between the tribal members.

  • Dvar for Maasei (Numbers 33:1-36:13)

    Parshat Maasei lists the many places where the Jews in the desert traveled through and camped. Since the Torah doesn’t waste any words or letters, it would seem strange to list places that the Jews visited, if it meant nothing for us today. As commentaries help explain, when you love someone, you want to remember everything you did together, and G-d’s love for us is no different. This love that G-d has for us is the reason why the Torah spends so many Pessukim (verses) listing the places the Jews visited. As Rabbi Twerski asks, though, at each point the Torah says (33:1-12) that they “traveled from A and camped at B. They traveled from B and camped at C”, when it could have saved words and simply said that they camped at A, B, and C?

    Commentaries help us understand this by explaining that the forty years that the Jews spent in the desert was filled with spiritual growth, and the “travels” represented that growth. The Torah attests to the fact that not only did the Jews travel to point A, but they camped/grew there. The lesson for us is simple and true: If you want to “travel” through Torah growth, make sure you not only travel along a solid path, but make sure you “camp” at every stage, and make sure you’re comfortable with it, before you move onto another level. For example, you can’t jump to Kaballah (mysticism) before you know Halacha (law) and Talmud. There’s a process that requires “camping” at every step of the way. So before we venture off to see the wonderful sites the Torah has to offer, make sure you take a road map (Torah), a guide (Rabbi), and patience. Only then will you truly enjoy the ride.

  • Daily Aliya for Massei, Shlishi (3rd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: G‑d instructs the Jewish people to eradicate all Canaan’s inhabitants and destroy their idols after crossing the Jordan River. The borders of the land of Israel are delineated. The land was to be divided by lottery among the nine and a half tribes (Reuben, Gad and half of the tribe of Menashe were going to settle on the eastern bank of the Jordan).

    The Ramban sites these verses as the source of the mitzvah (commandment) in the Torah to dwell in Israel – a mitzvah that he says applies today. The Ramban counts this mitzva as one of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. The Rambam does not. This does not mean that the Rambam does not consider it a mitzvah to live in Israel. He echoes the Talmud in saying that “a person should always choose to live in Israel, even in a city with a majority of idol worshipers, rather than live outside of Israel, even in a predominantly Jewish city”.

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