Monday, July 16, 2012

Matot & Masei

The Torah Portion of Matot

"He shall not profane his word, according to whatever comes out of his mouth he shall do."  (Bamidbar 30:3)  

Someone who guards his mouth, and doesn't profane it, is on the level of a Tzaddik (Righteous Person) who decrees, and the Holy One Blessed Be He will fulfill everything that comes out of his mouth.  (from Mayana Shel Torah)

"He shall not profane his word." (Bamidbar 30:3)  

One should not begin immediately to speak, but rather should think beforehand whether or not there are any words of forbidden speech in what he is going to say.  (Ben Ish Chai)  

"And Moshe sent them - a thousand per tribe for the army - them and Pinchas Ben Elazar the Cohen to the army..." (Bamidbar 31:6) 

The Midrash asks, didn't the Holy One Blessed Be He say to Moshe "Take vengeance..." (Bamidbar 31:2), that is to say, that you yourself should do it? So how did he send someone else to do it?  And the explanation is that because Moshe grew up in the land of Midian,  he didn't want to cause suffering to someone who had given him benefit.  This is similar to the proverb which says: "A well from which you have drunk water, don't throw a stone in it".  The Masters of Mussar (Ethics) say that we see from this how great is the requirement of feeling and showing gratitude, for behold the Holy One Blessed Be He commanded to Moshe "Take vengence for the Children of Israel from the Midianites; afterwards you will be gathered unto your people". (Bamidbar 31:2)  And Rashi says that even though he heard that his death was dependent upon this vengence, he did it happily and didn't delay it.  If so, Moshe Rabbeinu gave up his life in order that they should go to take vengence for the Children of Israel from Midian, and also forced the Children of Israel to go out to war against their will because they didn't want to bring about Moshe's death. And in spite of all that, Moshe also did not cancel out the requirement to feel and show gratitude, and did not fulfill the Mitzvah of taking vengence by himself, but rather through his appointed agent.

"And to half the tribe of Menashe." (Bamidbar 32:33) 

The Ramban asks, why did Moshe give to half the tribe of Menashe their inheritance on the other side of the Jordan River?  We don't find that they requested to receive a portion and inheritance there.  The Chazkeni says that, in truth, the children of Menashe didn't request for themselves an inheritance in the land of Sichon and Og, and only the children of Reuven and Gad requested that.  The explanation is that their father Menashe caused the fathers of the other tribes to tear their clothing by the act of hiding Yosef's special goblet in Binyamin's knapsack, so therefore his tribe's inheritance was given in two separate portions on the two sides of the Jordan River.  And so it is found in the Midrash (B'raishit Rabba 84:19), that Menashe caused the heads of the tribes to tear, and therefore his inheritance was torn, half in the land of Jordan and half in the land of Canaan. And the Masters of Mussar (Ethics) ask, behold Menashe did that because of the Mitzvah of honoring his father, for Yosef commanded him to do so, and Yosef the Tzaddik (Righteous Man) had a correct reason for it, so why was he punished for that?  And the explanation is, that matters related to the behavior of a man toward his fellow man are very severe, and everyone who hurts another person, even though he does so with good intentions and only harms him inadvertently, in any event he is punished for it.  And that is what we see in this case, that in any event Menashe was punished generations after the deed and his inheritance was divided into two portions.  Therefore it is necessary for us to learn to be very careful not to hurt or embarrass someone, even with good intentions, because matters related to the behavior of a man toward his fellow man are very severe.

The Torah Portion of Masei

"Then Aharon HaKohen went up to the Mountain of Hor by the mouth of Hashem and died the fifth month on the first of the month." (Bamidbar 33:38)  

Rosh Chodesh of Menachem Av is the day of Aharon's death (i.e. his Yahrzheit).  This is the only Yarhzheit written explicitly in the Torah, and also the Torah Portion of Masei is always read  in the week of his Yahrzheit. He passed away 3284 years ago.  The calculation is thus: from the destruction of the Second Temple there are 1944  years,  add another 420 years for when the Second Temple stood, and another 70 years when there was exile (between the two Temples), and another 410 years for when the First Temple stood, and 440 years from the entry into the land until the First Temple.  (The basis for the 440 years from the entry into the land until the building of the First Temple is as follows: It was written in the book Melachim that it was 480 years after the children of Israel went out from Egypt that Shlomo built the First Temple, and subtract 40 from that during which Israel was in the desert, for Aharon passed away at the end of the 40 years.)  The result of the calculation is 3284 years.

The Sages say that the "city of refuge" from the Evil Inclination is to say "Kriat Sh'ma".  

Behold, the first verse of "Sh'ma" has 6 words in parallel to the 6 cities of refuge.  And from the word "V'ahavta" (in English: "and you shall love") until "B'shaarecha" (in English: "in your gates") there are 42 words, like the additional 42 cities.  When  we read the "Kriat Sh'ma" with intention, we flee from the Evil Inclination. (from Mayan Shel Torah)

There are 1944 years from the destruction of the Second Temple.

The counting of the non-Jewish calendar began 68 years before the destruction of the Second Temple. (Note that 68 is equal to the Gematria of the word "Chaim",  i.e., "Life" in English.) Subtract 68 years from their reckoning of the year, which according to their counting is currently 2012, and the result is that from the destruction of the Second Temple there are 1944 years. 

"By the rivers of Bavel, etc....also we cried".  (Tehillim 137:1) 

What is the significance of the word "also"?  It means that also the waters cried,  because the "Nisuch Hamayim" (Mitzvah of pouring the waters in the Temple) was eliminated. (from the Sefat Emet)  The Sages say: Everyone who mourns about Jerusalem, merits and sees her happiness.  It has been asked, why did they say "merits" in the present tense?  Shouldn't it have been written in the future tense "will merit"?  The Sages explain, behold there is a decree on a dead person that he will be forgotten by the heart, meaning that after 12 months the dead person is forgotten by the heart of the mourner.  But if the mourner doesn't forget it's a sign that the person didn't die.  And that is the explanation for the word  "merits" (in the present tense), if we are crying about the Temple after so much time this is a sign that the Temple is still alive and existing.

On the 29th of Tammuz falls the Yahrzheit of the holy Rashi, Rabbeinu Shlomo Yarchi ben Yitzchak.   

His father was a holy and righteous person, and merited to have a son like Rashi, as a result of a famous story: he gave up on a diamond when he "accidentally" dropped it into the sea, because the non-Jews wanted to take it to use it for idolatry.  Rashi didn't have any sons but had daughters.  His grandchildren included the brothers Rabbeinu Tam, Rashba"m, Rib"m.  And Rabbeinu Shlomo ben Rabbeinu Meir (mentioned one time in the Gemarra in Tosefot Pesachim 105b).  Before he publicized his writings on the Torah, he fasted 613 fasts.   The letters of the name "Rashi" are the initial letters of the words "Rabban Shel Yisrael" (the Rabbi of Israel).  He passed away 907 years ago on the 29th of Tammuz, 4865. May his memory protect us, Amen.

The Torah Portion of Matot has 112 verses.  1 positive commandment, 1 negative commandment.The Torah Portion of Masei has 132 verses. 2 positive commandments, 4 negative commandments.Haftora: "Sh'mu Davar Hashem" (Yirmiyahu 2).  

L'ilui Neshamat  HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor ben R' Chaim ztz"l

Everyone who mourns about Jerusalem merits and sees her happiness.

Shabbat Shalom!

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