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Parashah #42 Mattot / Tribes

In Weekly Torah Portions | on July, 14, 2014 | by
Parashah #42
 Mattot ~ מטות ~ Tribes
 Torah: B’midbar/Numbers 30:2(1) ~ 32:42
 Haftarah: Yirme’yahu/Jeremiah 1:1–2:3
 B’rit Hadashah: Mattit’yahu/Matthew 5:33–37

We begin Parashah #42 with Moshe addressing the “heads” or leaders of the (mah–tote) mattot/tribes concerning their vows and/or oaths. The Hebrew word for vow is (neh–dehr) neder (נדר) and (sh–voo–ah) sh’vu’ah (שבועה) is for oath.


The opening section of Mattot/Tribes discusses the laws of making and annulling vows. Integrity is a matter of Torah, a matter of internal and external consistency. When our actions agree with our confessions, we are living out integrity according to Torah’s standards. In verses 1 & 2, Torah says a person who makes an oath or a vow is bound to fulfill it. Did you notice it is expressed in both the negative and the positive? “. . . he shall not violate his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.”


Most of us have heard the expression “I think, therefore I am.” Judaism has a stronger version: “I speak, therefore I am.” More than the realm of “thought”, the spoken word changes the type of person you are. I know someone who, no matter how they are feeling or what the situation or the circumstances may be, when asked “How are you?”, always responds with “I’m blessed and highly favored of the Lord!” A prime example of “I speak, therefore I am”!!! I’ve learned, as a precaution, traditional Hebrew people often hedge their statements with plenty of “b’esrat HaShem” meaning “God willing” and “b’li neder” which means “without an oath”.


Perhaps this is why Yeshua encouraged us not to swear at all but to simply let our “yes” be “yes” and our “no” be “no” (Mattityahu/Matthew 5:34). He would have been referring to B’midbar/Numbers 30:1 & 2. To make His explanation clearer, we must understand His statement. Do not make vows or oaths lightly or in vanity. If you swear to something, see to it you carry out your word!


In today’s society, we hear the expression “it’s the thought that counts”. In connection with this teaching, I boldly state it is NOT the thought that counts. According to verse 2, “. . . he shall not violate his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.” This indicates action. I remember being told when I was growing up “actions speak louder than words”. I thought it was a “mother thing” but it’s not! It’s a biblical thing!!!!


The remainder of this chapter, verses 3 – 17, gives specific instructions concerning a woman’s vows or oaths, whether she was single, married, divorced or widowed. Ladies, how do you feel about these verses? It appears to me, these verses clearly give a husband the authority to annul his wife’s vows. A husband does have authority over his wife. AND, just in case there are some who ascribe to these verses as being “under the law”, as if it were a “bad thing”, there is plenty of scripture from the B’rit Hadashah/Renewed Covenant/New Testament to back it up.

• Rav Sha’ul/Rabbi Paul concurs in Ephesians 5:22 & 23 and Colossians 3:18.
• Titus addresses the issue in Titus 2:4 & 5 and . . .
• Shimon Kefa/Simon Peter in Kefa Alef/1st Peter 3:1.


However, let me be quick to add, husbands are not to abuse their authority. The Torah model is a husband who loves his wife, “just as Yeshua HaMashiach / Jesus the Messiah also loved the Assembly and gave Himself up for her . . .” (Ephesians 5:25). The biblical husband is to nourish and cherish his wife. Lording oneself over another is something Yeshua ascribes to pagans (Mattityahu/Matthew 20:25 – 28). Torah does not give a man license to force his wife to obey him. According to Kefa Alef/1st Peter 3:7, a brutish, authoritarian man who does not show his wife the dignity of being a “fellow heir” is not worthy of even having his prayers answered. Wow!!! That’s pretty strong!!!


Finally, with regard to the reference about Yeshua loving the Assembly, one needs to realize these teachings about marriage relationships are an explanation of the proper relationship between us, as believers and our Bridegroom, Yeshua.



Back to our Torah Portion: After The Almighty gives Moshe instructions for the (Mid – yah – neem) Midyanim/Midianites, He says “After that, you will be gathered to your people.” What a way to pinpoint one’s demise! Moshe has known he will not get to go into the Promised Land. Now he is told, when the Midyanim are taken care of, his final reward, his rest if you will, is eminent.


In verse 2 The Holy One commands Moshe concerning the Midyanim/Midianites. This sets the pattern for the destruction of the rest of Cana’an’s inhabitants. In verse 16, we find the first occasion in which the Torah names Bil’am the instigator of the plot to lead B’nei Israel/Children of Israel into sin. The incident at Ba’al Peor led to the loss of 24,000 lives before the plague was staid by the actions of Pinchas/Phineas.


In verses 3 – 6, Moshe musters 12,000 men, 1,000 from each tribe, for war. Did you pay attention to the latter part of verse 6? “He sent them AND Pinchas, the son of El’azar the cohen to the war, with the holy utensils and the trumpets for sounding the alarm in his care.” I don’t recall the cohanim/priests being sent out to battle in any of their previous conflicts. So would this be “first mention” of the first chaplain? Hmmmm . . . it would seem so!


B’nei Israel killed every male, including Bil’am (meaning “not of the people/foreigner”) as well as the five kings of Midyan, who were . . .

• Evi (desirous)                                                 • Tzur (rock)
• Rekem (versicolor / iridescent)              • Hur (burn)              • Reva (square)

BUT, they took captive the women and children as well as all their cattle, flocks and other goods. Needless to say, Moshe was “ticked” about the women being left alive. You would think B’nei Israel/Children of Israel would have learned a lesson from the incident involving Pinchas/Phinehas, but, oh no! Though not specifically stated, The Almighty’s instructions were to destroy the Midyanim. After all, these are the same women with whom B’nei Israel had sinned. Further instructions required the killing of ALL males, regardless of age and all the women who had participated in any sexual activity. Only the virgins were to remain alive.


In verses 19 & 20 we see the command, concerning the ashes of the red heifer, come into play. Everyone who killed a person or touched the corpse of someone slain was to stay outside the camp for seven days. Every person, every garment and everything made of wood was to be purified on the 3rd and 7th days. This included each person and their captives.


Verses 21 – 24 are about purification by fire and by water. I remember several years ago, a contemporary song about the Refiner’s Fire and how we are purified into our Father’s image? And then there are words like “being washed by the water of the Word”. It appears both of these were derived from this Torah portion, whether “they” knew it or not!


Verses 25 – 32 tell us the 12,000 men, 1,000 from each of the 12 tribes brought back quite a bit of “booty”. (This is the way it is referred to in verses 9, 11, 26 & 27, in The Complete Jewish Bible.) This campaign was no small undertaking. The “booty” came to . . .

• 675,000 sheep
• 72,000 cattle
• 61,000 donkeys
• 32,000 women who had never slept with a man.


Half of the “booty” went to the soldiers and the other half to those who stayed behind to care for the women, children and their possessions. The portion belonging to The Holy One (1/500) was taken from the soldiers’ half and given to El’azar the Cohen as Yehovah had ordered Moshe according to verses 36 – 41.

        • 675 sheep        • 72 cattle        • 61 donkeys        • 32 people

Moshe also took 1/50 from the people of Israel’s half of the persons and animals and gave them to the L’vi’im who were taking care of the tabernacle of יהוה, as He had ordered Moshe (verses 42 – 47).


According to verse 49, NOT ONE MAN was lost in battle!!! As a tribute to The Almighty, the soldiers brought all the gold jewelry – armlets, bracelets, signet rings, earrings and belts, weighing 420 pounds, to the tent of meeting to make atonement for themselves. (Verses 48 – 54) This word “atonement” is not exclusively a B’rit Hadashah/New Covenant word. All through the Tanakh/Bible there has been means for atonement.


For those who think these scriptures are only historic, they are prophetic as well. We find the same thing happening in our lifetime during “Operation Cast Lead” in the Gaza Strip (2008 – 2009). In this action against the Hamas terrorists, NOT ONE Israeli soldier was lost!!!


BTW . . . Hamas is Hebrew for violence!!! “But Egypt will be desolate and Edom a desert waste, because of the violence done to the people of Y’hudah, because they shed innocent blood in their land.” (Yo’el/Joel 4(3):19)


Before we leave this subject, we might ask ourselves, “Why didn’t they attack Mo’av/Moab who started the whole thing in the first place?” Consider this thought: The Holy One preserved Mo’av because in the future Ruth, the great convert, would come from them. And one of her descendants would be Melehk Dah-veed/King David.



Verses 1 – 15 find us just east of the Yarden/Jordan River. Reuven/Reuben and Gad, who own huge herds of sheep and cattle, find the land in this area very pleasing for their livestock. They want their inheritance to be “where they are” instead of “crossing over” to the Promised Land. Moshe is outraged because he thinks they are shirking their duty in fighting with their brothers for the Promised Land. So they agree, not only to be involved in the “taking” of the Promised Land, but they volunteer to be the vanguard, the ones out front!


Moshe says okay BUT . . . if you don’t “. . . your sin will find you out.” (verse 23) I can remember my mom using this phrase when she felt a reprimand might be necessary. 


Did you notice in verse 16 Reuven and Gad say, “Here we will build enclosures for our livestock and cities for our little ones . . .” and then it verse 24, Moshe reverses the order “Build cities for your little ones and enclosures for your sheep; then do what you said you would do.” Why did Moshe change their words? It is reported they put their livestock (money) before their families (quality time) so he had to correct them. So, what is the moral of this story? It’s important to get our priorities straight!!!


According to verse 34, the descendants of Gad built . . .

• Divon (pining)                                                    • Atarot (encircle)
• Aro’er (nudity)                                   • Atrot-Shofan (hidden)
• Ya’zer (helpful)                                  • Yogbehah (hillock)
• Beit-Nimrah (house of the leopard)      • Beit-Haran (house of Haran)

Then, the descendants of Re’uven (verses 37 & 38) built . . .

• Heshbon (design or invention)                  • El’aleh (God is going up)
• Kiryatayim (double city)                     • N’vo (name of a Babylonian diety)
• Ba’al-M’on (Ba’al of the habitation)    • Sivmah (spice)

According to the Complete Jewish Bible, they renamed the cities they built. I certainly hope so!!!


Descendants of M’nasheh who built on the east side of the Yarden/Jordan River were . . .

• Ya’ir (enlightner), who captured villages and called them Havot-Ya’ir (hamlets/villages of Ya’ir) and
• Novach (bark), who captured K’nat (possession) with its villages and named it Novach after himself.


Mattot ~  מטות ~ Tribes
Haftarah: Yirme’yahu/Jeremiah 1:1 – 2:3

Normally, the Haftarah is related to one or more points of the Torah portion as has been the case for the first forty-one (Hahf-tah-rote) Haftarot. According to information in the Stone Edition of the Artscroll Chumash, however, after the Destruction of the Second Temple, the Sages ordained the Haftarah readings on the three Sabbaths between the Seventeenth of (Tah – mooz) Tammuz and the Ninth of (Ahv) Av be taken from the prophecies which forewarned the nation of the First Temple’s Destruction. It was on the Seventeenth of Tammuz the enemies of Israel broke Yerushalayim/Jerusalem’s walls and on the Ninth of Av each of the two Temples was burned to the ground.


These three Haftarot are called collectively the “Three of Affliction”. They are the opening chapters of Yirme’yahu/Jeremiah and Yesha’yahu/Isaiah and each threatens the dire consequences which would be visited upon Israel in response to its sinfulness. Nevertheless each of these Haftarot of gloom ends on a note of hope and inspiration. Yirme’yahu/Jeremiah 2:3 “‘Isra’el is set aside for Yehovah, the firstfruits of His harvest; all who devour him will incur guilt; evil will befall them,’ says Yehovah.”


Looks to me like The Almighty has not forsaken Israel as some churches would have you think. Baruch HaShem (Bless The Name)!!!!!


Mattot ~  מטות ~ Tribes
B’rit Hadashah: Mattit’yahu/Matthew 5:33 – 37


Mattit’yahu/Matthew 5:33 – 37      Right away we can see the parallel to our Torah portion “Do not break your oath” or “Do not swear falsely”, or “Do not perjure yourself”, depending on the translation you are using. “Keep your vows to Yehovah”. According to David H. Stern, in his “Jewish New Testament Commentary”, the distinction between vows and oaths is hazy. The early believers understood Yeshua not as prohibiting all vows but prohibiting vain oaths. Rabbis of the time did the same. For instance:

• In the Apocrypha in Sirach 23:9 “Do not accustom your mouth to swearing oaths, and do not habitually use the name of the Holy One.”

• Philo of Alexandria recommended avoiding oaths entirely (Decalogue 84)

• The Talmud has this parallel to verse 37: “Let your ‘no’ and ‘yes’ both be righteous [i.e., straightforward].” (Bava Metzia 49a)


The corresponding Psalm for this Torah portion is:

Psalm 111

Next week’s lesson: Parashah #43
Masaei ~ Stages/Journeys
Torah: B’midbar/Numbers 33:1 ~ 36:13
Haftarah: Yirme’yahu/Jeremiah 2:4 – 28; Yirme’yahu/Jeremiah 3:4
B’rit Hadashah: Ya’akov/James 4:1 – 12

Who fills his mind with Torah clears it of fear and folly.
Rabbi Chanina Sgan HaKohanim

The giving of Torah happened at one specific time, but the receiving
of Torah happens all the time, in every generation.
Meir Alter, the Gerer Rebbe

Organize yourselves into classes for the study of Torah,
since it can best be acquired in association with others.
Talmud: Berkot 63b

Shavuah tov (have a good week)!!!

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