42 Matot-Masei

 אֵלֶּה מַסְעֵי בְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר יָצְא֛וּ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם לְצִבְאֹתָם בְּיַד־מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹֽן׃

These are the journeys of the children of Israel, who went out of the land of Egypt by their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron.





Brit Chadasha

July 18 2020

Matot “Tribes”
Masei “Journeys”

Numbers 30:3-36:13

Jer. 2:4 - 28; 4:1-2

Mat. 5:33-37
Jas. 4:1-12


38 matot maseiParashat Matot begins with a detailed presentation of the laws pertaining to vows and oaths. Next, Moses is instructed to “take revenge” against the Midianites, and there is a long report on Israel’s terrible battle against Midian. In the aftermath of the war, Moses reminds the soldiers about the laws of ritual impurity and deals with the division of the spoils between the soldiers, community, and the Tabernacle. Next, Moses is approached by the tribes of Reuven and Gad, asking to be apportioned some land on the east side of the Jordan River. At first, Moses is annoyed by this request, but he then relents as long as they agree to continue to fight with the rest of Israel to conquer the land of Israel

Parashat Masei, the five daughters of Zelophehad; Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah, challenge the women’s inheritance right in order to protect ownership of tribal land. Moses responds al pi Adonai — “at the mouth of Adonai” (Numbers 36:5), by amending the new law. The change requires women who inherit ancestral land to marry into a family of their father’s tribe (Numbers 36:6), thereby limiting these women’s choice of spouses, but keeping the property within the tribe. The portion and the book end by confirming that the sisters did marry accordingly. Nevertheless, while the decree in this Torah portion certainly is a step back from the full rights given to the daughters previously, it is not a full retreat; they still end up with more than they had in the first place.

Parasha Masei contains a detailed discussion of manslaughter (chapter 35), including a definition of "killing unintentionally," the punishment coming to the manslayer, namely to be exiled to a city of refuge, as well as a statement asserting that a monetary fine may not be paid in lieu of the stipulated punishment, as was the practice in certain civilizations of the ancient world.  The subject of manslaughter also comes up in Exodus (21:22-23), but the details given there differ radically from what we find in this week's reading.  Punishment by exile to a city of refuge is not mentioned; instead, a monetary fine is imposed.
Examining scripture, we find that the words Mate and Matot (tribe/s) occur frequently in descriptions of the military preparations for war, also occur frequently in the census of the tribes when organizing their military force, as described in Numbers. The connection between these words is most prominent in chapter 10, for the word Mateh occurs in conjunction with tzava (army, military force) in a phrase repeated eight times:  "in command of the tribal troop."