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Home » Matot

Matot: Food for Thought for Your Dinner Table

Submitted by on July 20, 2008 – 5:40 amNo Comment | 3,166 views

Sunday: The Vow

The Mishnah encourages us to take oaths against sins toward which we are inclined because “vows promote abstinence.” The Jerusalem Talmud discourages use of vows to prohibit behaviors that the Torah permits because “G-d’s prohibitions should be sufficient.” Which is the correct approach?

The answer depends on our spiritual state. Pious Jews, who are not liable to slide backward when exposed to temptation, should avoid use of the vow. Jews with sinful proclivities ought to make use of the vow to distance them from sin. It goes without saying that we strive to graduate from a state that requires the vow to one that does not, at which time former vows can, and should, be annulled. This is why the Torah goes to great length to explain how vows are annulled. Likutei Sichos

Monday: The Midianites

The Torah instructed the Jews us to annihilate the Midinanites and thus avenge G-d and themselves. The Midianites introduced conflict where before there was unity.  (The word conflict is inherent in the name Midian, which translates into Hebrew as Madun, which means tension or conflict.) They did this by sending their pretty maidens to entice the Jewish leaders, but denying them cohabitation till they committed idolatry. To retain the goodwill of their mistresses, these enticed Jewish leaders turned against the Jewish people and their faith.

Sowing disunity in the Jewish ranks is an offense against the Jew and an offense against G-d. We fulfill the edict to annihilate the Midianites in contemporary terms by making a supreme effort to resolve conflict and enhance Jewish unity. Sefer Mamarim 5780

Tuesday: To Be Kosher Again

The laws about purging un-kosher flavors from utensils that have become un-kosher are introduced as The decree of the Torah.” Indeed, this law is central to the entire Torah for if there is hope for those utensils that have become un-kosher then there is hope for those Jews that have sinned. Just as a utensil can be kosherized through purging so can a Jew be kosherized through repentance, which is a form of purging from sin. Derash Moshe

Wednesday: The Miracle of Numbers

The Torah required our ancestors to donate one of every five hundred livestock captured from the Midianites to the priesthood. The Torah then enumerates the number of captured livestock and number of captured livestock The Torah, usually economical with its words, enumerated the precise numbers to demonstrate that livestock were captured in multiples of five hundred to enable the Jews to comply precisely with the formula given by G-d.

This demonstrates that when G-d instructs us to perform a mitzvah He provides all the necessities in advance. Not only did G-d enable the Jews to capture a number of livestock that would tally with His precise formula, He also orchestrated the precise number of cattle births among the Midinaites in advance of their capture so that Jews would later fulfill their Mitzvah with every captured livestock. When faced with a Mitzvah opportunity we need never concern ourselves with whether we are able to afford it. G-d arranges it for us in advance. Ramban, Orach Chayim and Likutei Sichos

Thursday: To Israel Before G-d

The Jewish warriors consecrated unto G-d the anklets, bracelets, rings, earrings and clasps that they had removed from the Midinaite women. Moshe and his nephew Elazar delivered these donations “To the tent of meeting, as a testament to Israel, before G-d.”

The verse should have read “To the tent of meeting before G-d, as a testament to Israel” rather than separating the words “tent of meeting” and “before G-d” with the words “testament to Israel.” The intent, however, was to demonstrate that the behavior of the Jewish warriors, even as they removed the intimate jewelry from their female captives, was proper before G-d. They did not violate the modesty of these women as they relieved them from their intimate apparel. They behaved as if they were standing before G-d, which was a testament to the children of Israel. Orach Chayim

Friday: The Danger of Separation

The tribes of Reuven and Gad applied for permission to settle on the east bank of the Jordan River because of its abundant grazing lands. Moshe recoiled from the suggestion, “Will your brothers go to war while you sit here” he demanded. Tending sheep is a Jewish pastime; it was the occupation of the Patriarchs and of Moses himself. Yet, its very appeal in the pre Sinai days made it inappropriate in the post Sinai era.

Sheepherding enables one to eschew all material entanglements and commune directly with G-d amidst the beauty of His nature. However, when G-d gave us the Torah He tasked us with linking the world he created with the holiness of its creator. This cannot be accomplished by escaping the material world for a life of isolation in the grazing fields. This can only be accomplished through living a life of Torah within the material world. This is why Moshe recoiled from the suggestion that fully two and a half tribes would opt for a life of abstinence and separation. Likutei Sichos

Friday: The Advantage of Separation

After eliciting a promise from them to join their brothers in conquering the Land of Israel Moshe permitted the tribes of Reuven and Gad to settle for the life they desired. In spiritual terms this means that he solicited a promise from them to guide and mentor their brethren in the battle to refine the material and enable the G-dly to prevail over the un G-dly.

Even in the post Sinai era there must be Jews who are devoted to study in the tents of Torah, sheltered and separated from the material world, who act as teachers and mentors to Jews on the front lines. Having Jews who live in a rarified spiritual environment, to whom we can turn for inspiration and guidance enables us, the majority of Jews, to maintain our spiritual integrity despite the decadence of our materialistic environment. This is the inner meaning of the promise to support their brethren that Moshe elicited from those who remained behind. Likutei Sichos

Edited by Rabbi Yeruchem Eilfort, Director of Chabad at La Costa.