Dvar Torah Parshat Matot 5774 2014

The tribes of Reuven and Gad came to Moshe concerning:  הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר הִכָּה יְקֹוָק לִפְנֵי עֲדַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, “the land that Hashem smote before the assembly of Israel”. (Num. 32,4) They asked permission to settle on the eastern side of the Jordan and not on the western side. Moshe’s reply to them was: הַאַחֵיכֶם יָבֹאוּ לַמִּלְחָמָה וְאַתֶּם תֵּשְׁבוּ פֹה, “…Shall your brothers go out to battle while you settle here?” (v. 6)

Did they not know that Moshe would use that argument to deny their request? The Commentary Or Hachayim on the Torah implies a very unique answer. Their point was that Hashem would fight the battle of the Israelites. That is why the Torah mentions in the beginning of this episodeהָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר  הִכָּה יְקֹוָק, “the land that Hashem smote”. Their thinking was that since Hashem will be fighting their battles there is no need for them to crossover the Jordon to assist in the fighting.

Moshe answered them that it is true that Hashem will assist them and guarantee victory. However, it is only after they themselves will fight. You must come with them to fight alongside your brethren.

After this argument of Moshe these tribes promised that they will arm themselves and go with their brethren until they too can settle in the land promised to the Jewish people.
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Dvar Torah Parshat Matot-Umasei 5773 2013

After Bil’am failed his mission of casting a spell over the Children of Israel, according to the Talmud, he advised Balak to have the daughters of Moab and Midian entice the Israelites to sin. This advice was carried out and many Israelites perished as a consequence of their transgression.

In today’s Sidra we read that Hashem instructed Moshe: נְקםֹ נִקְמַת בְנֵי
יִשְרָאֵל , “Take vengeance for the Children of Israel against the Midianites…” When Moshe instructed the people to arm to fight the Midianites he said to them: לָתֵת נִקְמַת יְקוָֹק בְמִדְיָן , “…to inflict Hashem’s vengeance against Median.” (Num. 31,2-3) Hashem called it Israel’s vengeance and Moshe called it Hashem’s vengeance. Why the change?

Moshe reasoned that the enemies of our people don’t hate us because we have strength or because we threaten them. They despise us because of our faith and our principles based on the Torah teachings. It is our way of life that differs from theirs. Thus it is not the Israelite’s vengeance, but rather that of Hashem.
This has been true throughout all ages. The Jew has been scorned and loathed, not because of his might, for he was not mighty. It was because of our way of life, because of our principles and for what we stand. That is totally contrary to their beliefs and their practices. That is also why the enemies of the State of Israel try to delegitimize it.

Dvar Torah Parshat Matot 5771 2011

Two tribes asked Moshe to grant them permission to remain on the east side of the Jordan and not to go into Israel proper. At first Moshe refused, but after they explained that they will settle their families and promised that they will go across the river with the rest of the Israelites to fight the battles to conquer the land and then return, Moshe relented and granted them permission.

Moshe did a strange thing. Only the tribes of GAD and RE’UVEN had asked to remain. When Moshe acceded to their request the Torah says: VAYITEN LAHEM MOSHE LIVNE GAD VELIVNE RE’UVEN VELACHATZI SHEVET MENASHE…, “So Moshe gave to them – to the children of Gad, and the children of Re’uven, and half the tribe of Menashe…” (Num. 32,33) He added half the tribe of Menashe to remain with them when we do not find any request from this tribe to remain and not enter into the Promised Land.

A reason often given was to assure that the tribes remaining and the tribes entering the land would stay in touch with each other. Since it was obvious the two parts of the tribe of Menashe would stay united, they would also guarantee that the other two tribes would do so. Why, however, did he choose the tribe of Menashe?

We might find a clue if we look back to see why Yosef gave Menashe his name when he was born. He called him Menashe because he said: KI NASHANI ELOKIM, “…Hashem has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s household.” (Gen. 41,51) What usually is thought is that he wanted to forget his father’s home. The contrary is true. He wanted to forget the hardships he encountered there but his intention was that every time he called his son by name he would remember his father’s home.

Hence Moshe had the same intention. This tribe’s presence among the other two tribes would remind them to keep in touch with their brethren tribes.

Dvar Torah Parshat Matot u’Masei 5770 2010

VAYICHTOV MOSHE ET MOTZE’HEM LEMASEHEM, “ Moses wrote their goings forth according to their journeys…” (Num. 33,2) This verse is found in the beginning of the Sidra. What follows is a list of all the stops made by the Israelites in the Wilderness on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land. Why was it necessary to tell us all these various stops?

There are two reasons that can be offered. Both very significant. First we are told about the difficult journey. It was not a pleasure trip as one experiences today when he comes to Israel on a fast jet. This trip took forty years with all the difficulties of a desert and the shortage of water and food. These necessities for life were made available to our ancestors miraculously.

Secondly, we are given this information to impress upon us how important it is to know our history. We must be familiar with our past to know how it came about that we came to Israel and why it is ours. It is also significant for us to know history in order to avoid the pitfalls that one faces in our times. By knowing the past we learn how to avoid the same problems in the present and we know how to deal with the trials and tribulations that confront us.

Dvar Torah Parshat Matot (Matos) 2008 5768 דבר תורה פרשת מטות

The opening passage of this week’s Torah reading speaks about the obligation to fulfill one’s word when he makes a NEDER or a vow. The Torah disparages making vows. Chazal consider making vows as if one sins. On the other hand, when a vow is made then it is obligatory upon the person to fulfill his commitment.

There is a way, however, to nullify a vow. One has to go to a Bet Din constituted for this purpose and they can nullify the vow under certain conditions. The person has to regret having made it or because of certain circumstances he finds it too difficult to carry out.

My Rebbi, Harav Y.B. Soloveitchik, made and insightful observation. He said that nullifying a vow is similar to one who does TESHUVA or repents his actions of a specific transgression.

When one nullifies a vow he does so for one of two reasons as pointed out above. He either finds he cannot carry out his commitment because of conditions that have developed or he has a different mindset now and regrets having made the vow.

The same is true when one does TESHUVAH. He does so because he does not like the consequences of his actions and what it does to his life-style or because he has an inner change of heart and recognizes that these actions are not consistent any longer with his mental and spiritual feelings. He thus regrets his way of life and wants to nullify his old manner and start anew through TESHUVA.

Dvar Torah Matot U’Masei 2007 – 5767 דבר תורה מטות ומסעי

Usually when Hashem instructed the Bnei Yisrael about a Mitzvah the Torah tells us He told it to Moshe and Moshe conveyed the information to Aharon and then to other leaders and finally to the people. In this week’s Sidra we are given the laws concerning keeping one’s word, his oath and his vows and generally all that he promises. The Torah says: LO YACHEL DEVARO, “he should not break his word.” (Num. 30,3) What is different in this commandment is the manner in which Hashem conveyed this pertinent law. It does not say simply as always that Hashem spoke to Moshe to tell the people. Rather the Torah says that Moshe spoke to the RASHEY HAMATOT, the heads of the tribes. Why specifically to them?

We all know that when candidates are running for office they make all kinds of commitments. Even when in office they keep promising different things to all people for sundry reasons. Later they forget these promises and disregard their assurances. That is why Moshe especially directed his remarks concerning these laws to the leaders of the people. They especially should remember that whatever they promise they must fulfill.

It is a regrettable fact that in most instances today in politic life this is not the case. Promises are made only to be ignored when the time comes to fulfill them. Moshe wanted to avoid this injustice and so he spoke to the leaders first, emphasizing that although everyone is obligated to abide by their words, leaders who are prone to ignore them must be ever so more careful to remember and carry out their promises.