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Parashah 42 Mattot

Numbers 30:2 – 32:42

By Dr. K. Blad  ©

Second edition 2013-14

Lucrative copying not permitted.   

Torah Readings (when Mattot is read separately):

1.      30:2-17

2.      31:1-12

3.      31:13-24

4.      31:25-41

5.      31:42-54

6.      32:1-19

7.      32:20-42

8.      Maftir: 32:39-42

Haftarah: Jeremiah 1:1 – 2:3


Torah Readings (when Mattot and Massei are read together):

1.      30:2  – 31:12

2.      31:13-54

3.      32:1 – 32:19

4.      32:20 – 33:49

5.      33:50 – 34:15

6.      34:16 – 35:8

7.      35:9 – 36:13

8.      Maftir: 36:10-13

Haftarah  (when Mattot and Massei are read together): Jeremiah 2:4 – 2:28; 3:4


Mattot means “tribes”.

The First Aliyah, 30:2-17

30:1 “Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes of the children of Yisra'el, saying, This is the thing which HaShem has commanded.”(HNV revised) – This is a long passage about the importance of fulfilling promises. Here the Torah mentions the heads of the tribes in the context of fulfilling promises. This teaches us that the leaders had a much greater responsibility to fulfill promises than the rest of the people, since he represents HaShem before the people. If a leader does not fulfill his promises, the people will get the wrong impression of the Eternal who has appointed him as His representative. It also means that society must be founded on truthfulness and that this is especially significant among the leaders.

A political leader who makes promises during his election campaign and then, once he is elected, does not fulfill his promises, is dishonoring HaShem’s name. Not fulfilling a promise is a serious thing. It has to do with HaShem’s honor.

This principle applies to parents also. When parents promise their children something it is very important that they fulfill that promise so that the children will come to know HaShem’s faithfulness through their parents example. The impression that parents present to their children will be projected on the Eternal. Children believe that HaShem is like their parents. Therefore it is very important that parents fulfill their promises to their children and that they do not go back on their word. If, at any time, it becomes necessary to go back on a word that was given to one’s children, one must ask for forgiveness so the children understand that such behavior is not right. Then they will not believe that HaShem breaks his promises.

This text also means that one has a responsibility to fulfill one’s word before authorities, and that authorities, at certain occasions, have the right to annul the promises that the Israelites have made.

30:2 “When a man vows a vow to HaShem, or swears an oath to bind his soul with a bond, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.”(HNV revised) – Here we have two types of promises, a “vow” and an “oath”. The Hebrew word that is translated “vow” is neder,[1] which means “promise”, “something that one has promised”. It has to do with binding oneself in relation to an object, for instance an object or animal for sacrifice, or not to drink wine. The Hebrew word that is translated “oath” is shevuah.[2] It has to do with binding oneself to not doing a permitted activity, for instance not sleeping at night. Since this text follows the text about the sacrificial laws, it is interpreted to mean that one who makes a promise to sacrifice must fulfill his promise at the following feast when he visits the temple, compare with 29:39. For instance, one who promises to offer a specific animal by saying, “I will offer this animal to HaShem”, that person gives a neder. However, one who promises to give a certain type of offering with any animal by saying something like, “I will give an ascension offering”, is giving a shevuah.

Rabbi Bechai mentions three occasions when it is recommendable to make promises:

  1. When someone has a sinful habit pattern and wishes to break from it and thus makes a promise. For example, a glutton can make a promise not to eat meat for a certain amount of time, a drunkard can promise not to drink alcoholic beverages, and a greedy person can refuse to receive presents.

  2. If an opportunity is presented to fulfill a mitzvah (commandment) one can swear an oath to fulfill it at a later time in order not to miss the opportunity.

  3. Since our father Ya’akov made a promise when he was in distress, one who has great troubles can make promises, compare with Genesis 28:22; 31:13.

In Deuteronomy 23:21-23, it is written,

“When you shall vow a vow to HaShem your God, you shall not be slack to pay it: for HaShem your God will surely require it of you; and it would be sin in you. But if you shall forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in you. That which is gone out of your lips you shall observe and do; according as you have vowed to HaShem your God, a freewill-offering, which you have promised with your mouth.”(HNV revised)

In 1 Samuel 1:11, it is written,

“She vowed a vow, and said, HaShem of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your handmaid, and remember me, and not forget your handmaid, but will give to your handmaid a man-child, then I will give him to HaShem all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come on his head.”(HNV revised

In Psalm 22:25, it is written,

“Of you comes my praise in the great assembly. I will pay my vows before those who fear him.”(HNV)

In Psalm 116:17-18, it is written,

“will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call on the name of HaShem. I will pay my vows to HaShem, Yes, in the presence of all his people,”(HNV revised)

In Jonah 2:9, it is written,

“But I will sacrifice to you with the voice of thanksgiving. I will pay that which I have vowed. Salvation belongs to HaShem.”(HNV revised)

“he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth” – The Hebrew word that is translated “break” is yachel which comes from the word chalal,[3] which means “perforate”, “wound”, “undo”, “profane”.

The Torah emphasizes the importance of fulfilling promises. It is interesting to see the connection between perforating, or wounding, and not fulfilling a promise. One who does not fulfill a promise causes a wound, a perforation, in HaShem’s image. If we do not keep our word, we harm our function of reflecting HaShem’s character since the Eternal cannot break his word and man was created in his image.

In Ecclesiastes 5:1-6, it is written,

“Guard your steps when you go to God’s house; for to draw near to listen is better than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they don’t know that they do evil. Don’t be rash with your mouth, and don’t let your heart be hasty to utter anything before God; for God is in heaven, and you on earth. Therefore let your words be few. For as a dream comes with a multitude of cares, so a fool’s speech with a multitude of words. When you vow a vow to God, don’t defer to pay it; for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay that which you vow. It is better that you should not vow, than that you should vow and not pay. Don’t allow your mouth to lead you into sin. Don’t protest before the messenger that this was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice, and destroy the work of your hands? For in the multitude of dreams there are vanities, as well as in many words: but you must fear God.”(HNV revised)

HaShem takes our words more seriously that we think, “It is better that you should not vow, than that you should vow and not pay.” We must honor the words that come out of our mouths just as the Eternal honors His Word, as it is written in Psalm 138:2,

“I will bow down toward your sacred temple, and give thanks to your Name for your loving kindness and for your truth; for you have exalted your Name and your Word above all.”(HNV revised)

HaShem has bound himself to the Word that came out of his mouth. In the same way, we bind ourselves to our own words. If we do not fulfill them, we sin.

This scripture teaches us the principle of authority and submission:

  • A man is under the authority of the leaders, 30:1-2.

  • A young woman is under her father’s authority, 30:3-5.

  • An adult unmarried woman is under her father’s authority concerning the annulling of promises, 30:3-5.

  • A betrothed woman is under her husband’s authority, 30:6-8.

  • A widowed or divorced woman does not have any direct authority over her that can annul her promises. However, she is under the authority of the leaders, just as the men are, 30:9, compare with verses 1-2.

  • A married woman is under her husband’s authority, 30:10-15.

30:3 “Also when a woman vows a vow to HaShem, and binds herself by a bond, being in her father’s house, in her youth”(HNV revised) – The Hebrew word that is translated “in her youth” is neurim,[4] which means “youth”. A woman’s life is divided into three time eras: minor (in Hebrew ketanah), youth (in Hebrew nearah), and adult (in Hebrew bogeret). From a Jewish judicial standpoint the following applies: a woman who does not show any signs of puberty or is not yet twelve years old is a minor. If she has entered puberty, she becomes a youth at the age of twelve. At the age of twelve and a half, she becomes an adult.

According to Rashi, this commandment does not apply to a woman who is a minor, who cannot give a judicially binding promise. Neither does it apply to an adult, for she is not under her father’s authority, but only for a youth. When a daughter becomes twelve and a half years old, a father can therefore no longer annul her promises.

30:5b, 8b, 12b, “and HaShem will forgive her” – Since she cannot fulfill the promise that she made, there is guilt that needs to be forgiven.

30:8 “But if her husband disallow her in the day that he hears it, then he shall make void her vow which is on her, and the rash utterance of her lips, with which she has bound her soul: and HaShem will forgive her.”(HNV revised) – There are two reasons why the Eternal gave this authority to the man.

  1. A promise that was made by the betrothed woman before the betrothal, or by a wife after the wedding, verses 10-12, can affect the future marriage relationship. Therefore the husband has, for the good of the family, the authority to annul such a promise.

  2. The man has the responsibility to care for his wife and watch over her wellbeing. If he sees that a promise that she made in her youth, or after she was married, is harmful to her, he can annul it.

30:15 “But if he shall make them null and void after that he has heard them, then he shall bear her iniquity.”(HNV) – This means that the husband is responsible for any consequences that would come from not fulfilling a promise. Having authority means having responsibility. There is no authority without responsibility.

The Second Aliyah, 31:1-12

31:2 “Avenge the children of Yisra'el of the Midyanim: afterward you shall be gathered to your people.”(HNV) – The revenge came over Midyan, not Moav. Why? Rashi says that it was because the Moavites reacted out of fear since they found themselves near the children of Israel, while the Midyanites interfered where they did not belong.

Revenge came because of what Midyan did to the Israelite families. The daughters of Midyan had tried to destroy Israel’s family morals so that children would be born to pagan mothers, which would have caused idolatry.

Through this the coming generation would become perverted, as in the days of Ezra, when the Jewish men had married and borne children with women from other nations. These children were bi-lingual because of the influence of a foreign culture. The next generation of Jews would then be at risk of abandoning all faithfulness to the covenant. Therefore, they had to divorce these women and children, compare with Ezra 9-10; Nehemiah 13:23ff. It was different with Moshe’s Midyanite wife, Tzipporah, who had converted. These women from Midyan and Moav had no interest in adopting the faith of Israel, like Tzipporah had, but rather tried to destroy it through a pagan idolatrous cult. That is why vengeance came.

31:3 “Moshe spoke to the people, saying, Arm you men from among you for the war, that they may go against Midyan, to execute HaShem’s vengeance on Midyan.”(HNV revised) – Whom does the vengeance belong to? In Deuteronomy 32:35a it says that, “Vengeance is mine, and recompense”. Man does therefore not have the right to take revenge. If vengeance belongs to HaShem, how can Israel take revenge on Midyan? HaShem delegates the authority to Israel to carry out HIS vengeance. The people of Israel did not have the right in themselves to do this, it was only because of a heavenly order, as it is written, “Take vengeance…”

In Romans 12:17-21, it is written,

“Repay no one evil for evil. Respect what is honorable in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as it is up to you, be at shalom with all men. Don’t seek revenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to God’s wrath. For it is written, ‘Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord.’ Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink. For in doing so, you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”(HNV revised)

Man does not have the right in himself to take revenge. You have a right to defend yourself, but not to take revenge. Only authorities, who are appointed by the Eternal, have the right to execute His vengeance. If you have been treated unrighteously, leave room for HaShem to judge, either directly or through the authorities that he has appointed.

In Leviticus 19:18a, commandment number 241 is found, which forbids man to take revenge, as it is written,

“You shall not take vengeance”(HNV)

In Romans 13:1-6, it is written,

“Let every soul be in subjection to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those who exist are ordained by God. Therefore he who resists the authority, withstands the ordinance of God; and those who withstand will receive to themselves judgment. For rulers are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. Do you desire to have no fear of the authority? Do that which is good, and you will have praise from the same, for he is a servant of God to you for good. But if you do that which is evil, be afraid, for he doesn’t bear the sword in vain; for he is a minister of God, an avenger for wrath to him who does evil. Therefore you need to be in subjection, not only because of the wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For this reason you also pay taxes, for they are ministers of God’s service, attending continually on this very thing.”(HNV revised)

HaShem has appointed authorities as “an avenger for wrath to him who does evil”. However, if an authority does not do this, it is not fulfilling its function.

This applies to parents and children as well. Children do not have the right to take revenge on one another, but parents are obligated to avenge their child who has been wronged by his brother or sister, if they have not asked for forgiveness and made things right. If parents allow their children to harm one another without executing justice, their children will not learn the principle that HaShem is the one who avenges.

In many modern movies, the audience learns to cheer on the one who has been wronged and is seeking revenge from the one who has wronged him. This is not healthy. These movies teach people to not follow commandment number 241, which says that we are not to take vengeance. This commandment applies to all men, not just to Jews.

In Proverbs 20:22, it is written,

“Don’t say, ‘I will pay back evil.’ Wait for HaShem, and he will save you.”(HNV revised)

In Proverbs 24:29, it is written,

“Don’t say, ‘I will do to him as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work.’”(HNV)

In Psalm 94:1-3, it is written,

“HaShem, you God to whom vengeance belongs, you God to whom vengeance belongs, shine forth. Rise up, you judge of the earth. Pay back the proud what they deserve. HaShem, how long will the wicked, how long will the wicked triumph?”(HNV revised)

This Psalm teaches us to ask HaShem to rise up and execute vengeance on the earth, as it is also it is written in Revelation 6:9-10,

“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been killed for the Word of God, and for the testimony of the Lamb which they had. They cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, Master, the sacred and true, until you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’”(HNV revised)

In 1 Thessalonians 4:6, it is written concerning adultery,

“that no one should take advantage of and wrong a brother or sister in this matter; because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as also we forewarned you and testified.”(HNV)

In Hebrews 10:30-31, it is written,

“For we know him who said, ‘Vengeance belongs to me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will repay.’ Again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”(HNV revised)

Israel had HaShem’s delegated authority to execute his vengeance on Midyan and to kill everyone.

Yeshua HaMashiach has received all authority from God over all men on the earth, as it is written in Matthew 28:18,

“Yeshua came to them and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.’”(HNV revised)

Therefore he not only has the right, but also the responsibility, to execute his Father’s vengeance on all who do not obey him, as it is written in Revelation 19:11-16,

“I saw the heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it is called Faithful and True. In righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has names written and a name written which no one knows but he himself. He is clothed in a garment sprinkled with blood. His name is called ‘The Word of God.’ The armies which are in heaven followed him on white horses, clothed in white, pure, fine linen. Out of his mouth proceeds a sharp, double-edged sword, that with it he should strike the nations. He will rule them with a rod of iron. He treads the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God, the Almighty. He has on his garment and on his thigh a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.’”(HNV revised)

In 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10, it is written,

“Since it is a righteous thing with God to repay affliction to those who afflict you, and to give relief to you that are afflicted with us, when the Lord Yeshua is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, giving vengeance to those who don’t know God, and to those who don’t obey the Good News of our Lord Yeshua, who will pay the penalty: eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes to be glorified in his consecrated ones, and to be admired among all those who have believed (because our testimony to you was believed) in that day.”(HNV revised)

31:5 “So there were delivered, out of the thousands of Yisra'el, a thousand of every tribe, twelve thousand armed for war.”(HNV) – In the Scriptures, the number twelve has to do with rule. So, whenever the number twelve thousand occurs in connection to war, it has to do with power and authority, compare with Joshua 8:25; Judges 21:10; 2 Samuel 17:1; 1 Kings 4:26; Psalm 60. The twelve thousand from every tribe, who are mentioned in Revelation 7 are those who will conquer the world for the coming kingdom. The new Yerushalayim measures twelve thousand stadia in three directions, compare with Revelation 21:16. This means that the city will have complete authority over the whole created world.

31:6 “Moshe sent them, one thousand of every tribe, to the war, them and Pinechas the son of El`azar the priest, to the war, with the vessels of the sanctuary and the trumpets for the alarm in his hand.”(HNV) – They had to bring the consecrated things with them to war. According to Rashi, this is talking about the ark and the high priest’s golden plate together with the trumpets. This teaches us that it was a spiritual war. Further on we see that none of the children of Israel died in the war, compare with verse 49. They were protected supernaturally.

31:8b “Bil`am also the son of Be'or they killed with the sword.”(HNV) – Bil’am partook of HaShem’s vengeance because he gave counsel that caused the children of Israel to sin. One who causes another to sin will be punished.

The Third Aliyah, 31:13-24

31:16 “Behold, these caused the children of Yisra'el, through the counsel of Bil`am, to commit trespass against HaSHem in the matter of Pe`or, and so the plague was among the congregation of HaShem.”(HNV revised) – Why does Moshe say that the Midyanite women caused immorality in Israel when only the Moavite women are mentioned in 25:1? The answer is that it was both the Moavite and Midyanite women who did this.

31:19 “Encamp you outside of the camp seven days: whoever has killed any person, and whoever has touched any slain, purify yourselves on the third day and on the seventh day, you and your captives.”(HNV) – According to Rashi, this means that they could not enter the court of the tabernacle for seven days. Both the children of Israel and their captives had to go through a cleansing process with the water for sprinkling, compare with chapter 19.

31:20 “As to every garment, and all that is made of skin, and all work of goats, and all things made of wood, you shall purify yourselves.”(HNV revised) – When the children of Israel had been to war, they had to purify themselves by being sprinkled with the purification water, they and their clothes as well as other objects that had become unclean by contact with death. A corpse is the main source of ritual uncleanness. That is why it was so important to cleanse men and objects from all contact with death, because of the presence of the Eternal in the tabernacle.

According to Rashi, the phrase “all work of goats” is referring to objects made of goats horns, hoofs, and bones.

31:22-23 “however the gold, and the silver, the brass, the iron, the tin, and the lead, everything that may abide the fire, you shall make to go through the fire, and it shall be clean; nevertheless it shall be purified with the water for impurity: and all that doesn’t withstand the fire you shall make to go through the water.”(HNV) – Even the kitchen utensils that were taken from the Midyanites needed to be purified from all contact with death and food that was not kasher.

There are two elements used for cleansing: water and fire. The earth was cleansed by water the first time, at the flood. The second time it will be cleansed by fire, as it is written in 2 Peter 3:6-7,

“by which means the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished. But the heavens that now are, and the earth, by the same word have been stored up for fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”(HNV)

Therefore there are two ways of purifying the vessels, by fire and by water. Here it is only speaking of kitchen utensils made of metal. The Torah does not demand that one purifies utensils of other materials, such as wood, glass, clay, or plastic. The rabbis, however, have established that even kitchen utensils made of glass should be purified before they are used. Utensils that are used for heating up food need to be heated up in order to be kasherized. However, metal utensils that have not been used to heat up food do not need to be heated in order to be kasherized, but can be cleansed through water only.

“water for impurity” – This is speaking mainly of the sprinkling water used to cleanse from uncleanness caused by contact with a corpse. In Hebrew it is called mei niddah, “water of uncleanness”, or “water of separation”. The word niddah has to do both with water for sprinkling and with a woman’s uncleanness. Therefore, when it speaks of niddah water, it is also interpreted as meaning that these objects need to be dipped in the type of water that a woman dips herself in after her monthly purification, i.e. a mikveh that holds at least forty seah measurements. According to Rabbi Aryeh Coffman,[5] forty seah measurements represent approximately 332 liters. (See also the commentary on Leviticus 12 and 15 in Parashah number 27 (Tazria) and 28 (Metzorah)).

In Mark 7:4 it says,

And coming from the market, they do not eat without immersing, and there are many other things which they have received to hold, the dippings of cups and pots, and of copper vessels, and of tables.” (MKJV)

This teaches us that during the second temple period, the practice existed of cleansing both kitchen utensils of metal and those of other materials before use.

It is written in Shulchan Aruch,[6]


All kitchen utensils, of metal or glass (or Pyrex), that are meant for food and have been purchased by a non-Jew or have been made by non-Jews, need tevilah before use. Tevilah means that one dips them in a mikveh (ritual bath) in order to cleanse them for consecrated use, which is characteristic of Jews.

This mikveh that is meant for the tevilah of kitchen utensils ought to meet the same demands as the mikveh in which a woman cleanses herself after her time of uncleanness.

Before dipping the kitchen utensil, this beracha is spoken, Baruch Ata HaShem Eloheinu Melech Haolam Asher Kidshanu Bemitzvotav Vetzivanu Al Tevilat Kelim. (“Blessed are you… who set us apart by your commandments and commanded us to let our kitchen utensils undergo tevilah.”)

Ceramic and porcelain kitchen utensils also need to undergo tevilah, only without the beracha.

Wooden objects do not need to go through tevilah. 

Before the tevilah, the utensil must be cleaned thoroughly and the stickers of any company must be removed.

If the utensils have been purchased used from a non-Jew, the tevilah will need to be preceded by hag’alah or libbun, depending on which type of utensil it is.


Metal kitchen utensils that have been used to make food that is not kasher can be used if they are “kasherized”. “Kasherizing” means to do hag’alah or libbun, depending on which type of utensil it is, in order to release the residue of forbidden food that was absorbed.


During Pesach it is forbidden to use the kitchen utensils that were used during the rest of the year for frying, deep-frying, baking, eating, or drinking warm or cold. Therefore it is common to have a set of pots, a set of china, and special silverware for Pesach. If this is impossible, one may, for Pesach, use certain kitchen utensils that were used the rest of the year after “kasherizing” them. There are two methods of “kasherization” that cleanses them from the chametz they have absorbed.

  1. Hag’alah – which means dipping the utensil in boiling water.

  2. Libbun – which means heating it in fire until it glows and shoots sparks.

These methods can be explained by the principle: “in the same way that the utensil absorbed the food, it expels it”.

  1. The kitchen utensil that has absorbed chametz (or another type of forbidden food) through boiling, i.e. through the influence of a boiling liquid, will expel it through boiling water, through hag’alah. This is the case with pots.

  2. A kitchen utensil that has been in direct contact with chametz through fire can only expel it through fire, through libbun. This is the case with the rack in the oven.

How hag’alah is performed:

First the utensil is cleaned thoroughly. Then it is dipped completely, with handles (and lid as well) in a kettle with boiling water that is over heat.

  1. The hag’alah must be preceded by a thorough cleansing.

  2. A kitchen utensil can only go through hag’alah if twenty-four hours have passed since it was used.

  3. The hag’alah is done in the following way: water is boiled in a large pot. Then a glowing iron spit is put into the water so that it spills over. After this, the utensil that needs cleansing is dipped.

  4. Once the hag’alah or libbun is finished, the utensil is rinsed in cold water.

Different types of kitchen utensils and machines

  1. Kitchen utensils that are used throughout the year and will not be used during Pesach can be cleaned and then stored in a place that is out of reach so that they will not be used by mistake.

  2. Kitchen utensils of metal can be “kasherized”.

  3. It is impossible to “kasherize” kitchen utensils made of ceramic, porcelain, or plastic.

  4. Kitchen utensils of metal, porcelain, or wood, that are usually used cold, and sometimes warm, can be used during Pesach, if they have first been cleaned thoroughly.

  5. Kitchen utensils of glass (or Pyrex) can be used during Pesach, even though they have been used warm, since they do not absorb food residue. It is enough to first rinse them.

  6. Pressure cookers, since they have rubber on them, cannot be “kasherized” properly and therefore one must be used that is only for Pesach.

  7. Knives are normally not “kasherized” by hag’alah. One ought to use knives that are reserved for use during Pesach.

  8. Refrigerators are cleaned thoroughly so that all food residue is gone.

  9. Tables that one may normally eat from without a tablecloth: one must pour boiling water over them and keep them covered with a tablecloth during Pesach.

  10. The stove, gas or electric, is cleaned thoroughly. It is recommended to exchange the stands on the stove that the pots have stood on, and if they are not exchanged, they need to be cleaned thoroughly and undergo hag’alah (according to another stricter interpretation, they need to undergo libbun).

  11. Dentures are cleaned thoroughly from all food residues and undergo hag’alah before the point when all chametz is removed on Pesach afternoon.

The Fourth Aliyah, 31:25-41

31:35 “and thirty-two thousand persons in all, of the women who had not known man by lying with him.”(HNV) – A large amount of women were spared; thirty-two thousand who had not been with any man. This teaches us that they must have killed a very large number of adult men and women.

The Fifth Aliyah, 31:42-54

31:50 “We have brought HaShem’s offering, what every man has gotten, of jewels of gold, ankle-chains, and bracelets, signet-rings, ear-rings, and armlets, to make atonement for our souls before HaShem.”(HNV revised) – According to a Midrash,[7] these soldiers, who were tzadikim, righteous, gave these things in order to obtain atonement since they were not able to avoid looking at the Midyanite women which created sinful thoughts in them, compare with Matthew 5:28.

Another interpretation says that this was the way they asked for forgiveness for not obeying the whole commandment that HaShem gave through Moshe when they allowed the women to live, compare with 31:14.

31:52 “All the gold of the heave-offering that they offered up to HaShem, of the captains of thousands, and of the captains of hundreds, was sixteen thousand seven hundred fifty shekels.”(HNV revised) – The commanders were very grateful that none of the children of Israel had died and they came with an offering of gold and all kinds of precious objects. The gold alone weighed approximately two hundred kilograms.

The reason that the modern Israeli army is losing soldiers in war is because there is so much lawlessness among them as well as among the rest of the people of Israel. The high standard of moral and ritual pureness of the soldiers of Israel in the time of Moshe and Yehoshua gave them a special protection in time of war so that they didn’t lose even a single man in the wars that they fought according to the Eternal’s purposes.

The Sixth Aliyah, 32:1-19

32:4 “the land which HaShem struck before the congregation of Yisra'el, is a land for cattle; and your servants have cattle.”(HNV revised) – The children of Reuven said that they had a lot of cattle, but they did not mention their children. In verse 16, we see that the cattle were mentioned before the children. It seems as though the descendants of Reuven did not appreciate their children so much. They were more interested in their business than they were in their families. This is an age-old problem for man; to worry more about his professional life than about his own children. Moshe rebuked this attitude in verse 24, where it is written, “Build you cities for your little ones and folds for your sheep…” He put the children before the cattle.

In Genesis 42:37, it is written,

“Re'uven spoke to his father, saying, ‘Kill my two sons, if I don’t bring him to you. Deliver him into my hand, and I will bring him to you again.’”(HNV)

Reuven’s attitude toward his children is sad. He does not value their lives. The life of a human is of much more value than business. A society where career and position are prioritized above raising children is an unhealthy society, doomed to destruction. A society where the woman is forced out into the working world, forced to leave her children in the care of others is a society that breeds criminality. A society where women choose abortion in order not to lose their employment is a society that does not understand the principles that lead to success. A society where a human is murdered in order that other may steal a little money is a society close to annihilation.

In Hosea 6:8, it is written,

“Gil`ad is a city of those who work iniquity; it is stained with blood.”(HNV)

The area east of the Yarden, where the two and a half tribes settled, was an area full of conflict, where the value of human life was reduced drastically. Therefore three cities of refuge were needed for two and a half tribes, as opposed to three cities of refuge for nine and a half tribes on the other side of the Yarden. This teaches us that violence and a low value for human life dominated the area of the two and a half tribes.

This area was the most exposed to attacks by the enemies of Israel. Those who lived there were the first to be taken away into exile by the Assyrians and other nations.

It is interesting to note that Reuven, who lost his birthright, did not receive an inheritance within the land of Kana’an, but east of the Yarden.

32:5 “They said, If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants for a possession; don’t bring us over the Yarden.”(HNV) – First they said that they did not want to go over the Yarden, but then, after having been rebuked by Moshe, they changed and sought other arguments.

Only we, who are men of war, will go before the army and then we will return to our families, compare with verses 16-19. They fulfilled their promise and fought for fourteen years together with Yehoshua until the whole land was taken. Only after fourteen years did they return to their families. This was not a good choice. When a husband and wife have been apart for a couple of years, they lose their feelings for one another. Those who leave their families and travel to other countries to earn money are not acting rightly. How did these wives feel having to be without their husbands for fourteen years? How did the children feel, who were without their fathers for fourteen long years? The family really did not have a high position on these tribes’ list of priorities. That was why they were not able to stand against their enemies later on and they were the first to be destroyed in Israel.

The Seventh Aliyah, 32:20-42

32:25-26 “The children of Gad and the children of Re'uven spoke to Moshe, saying, Your servants will do as my lord commands. Our little ones, our wives, our flocks, and all our cattle, shall be there in the cities of Gil`ad”(HNV) – Here the descendants of Gad and Reuven correct their manner of speech, and they mention their children and wives before the cattle. This was a better priority than before, (see verse 16). Here the family is put before the career, but this was still not the best since the children are mentioned before the wives. A good husband puts his wife before his children.

32:33 “Moshe gave to them, even to the children of Gad, and to the children of Re'uven, and to the half-tribe of Menasheh the son of Yosef, the kingdom of Sichon king of the Amori, and the kingdom of `Og king of Bashan, the land, according to the cities of it with their borders, even the cities of the land round about.”(HNV) – The half tribe of Menasheh did not ask for this area, but it was appointed to them by Moshe. Which tribe received the largest area? It was the tribe of Menasheh, the tribe that had grown the most between the two last censuses. He had a great potential for growth because of the word that Ya’akov spoke and which is written in Genesis 48:19,

“His father refused, and said, ‘I know, my son, I know. He also will become a people, and he also will be great. However, his younger brother (Ephrayim) will be greater than he, and his seed will become a multitude of nations.’”(HNV)

Why did HaShem divide one tribe? Was it in order to create division in a tribe in Israel or was it to retain unity? I believe that this division of Menasheh’s tribe was a strategic move by HaShem in order to keep the unity of the people. The descendants of Menasheh would go from one side of the river to the other to visit their relatives and keep in touch. History shows that Israel did not experience any division between east and west, but only between north and south. The division of the kingdom was not caused by this division of the tribes, but by other things.

This Parashah contains commandments number 406 and 407 of the 613 commandments:

  1. The command about annulling oaths or promises, Numbers 30:3.

  2. The prohibition of not fulfilling an oath or a promise, Numbers 30:3.

[1]       Strong H5087  neder  nêder, neh'-der, nay'-der, From H5087; a promise (to God); also (concretely) a thing promised: - vow ([-ed]).

[2]       Strong H7621  shebû‛âh, sheb-oo-aw', Feminine passive participle of H7650; properly something sworn, that is, an oath: - curse, oath, X sworn.

[3]       Strong H2490 châlal, khaw-lal', A primitive root (compare H2470); properly to bore, that is, (by implication) to wound, to dissolve; figuratively to profane (a person, place or thing), to break (one’s word), to begin (as if by an opening-wedge); denominatively (from H2485) to play (the flute): - begin (X men began), defile, X break, defile, X eat (as common things), X first, X gather the grape thereof, X take inheritance, pipe, player on instruments, pollute, (cast as) profane (self), prostitute, slay (slain), sorrow, stain, wound.

[4]       Strong H5271 nâ‛ûr  nâ‛ûr  ne‛ûrâh, naw-oor', naw-oor', neh-oo-raw', Properly passive participle from H5288 as denominative; (only in plural collectively or emphatically) youth, the state (juvenility) or the persons (young people): - childhood, youth.

[5]       La Torá con Rashí, Bemidbar, Editorial Jerusalén de México, page 546, note 182.

[6]       Originally by R. Yosef Caro. This quote comes from a collection of the practical laws and their commentaries up until the current wise men according to Sefardic tradition, by R. Abraham M. Hassan. Published by the organization “Hasdé Lea” 3rd edition © 1995, page 334-335, 179-182. Translated from Spanish by the author.

[7]       Rokeach.