Blog Mattot-Masei 2 Av 5778 בלוג מַּטּוֹת-מַסְעֵי, ב’ אב תשע”ח
The Bore Olam teaches us how to live our daily lives through pictures contained within the stories of the Torah. Now that we are ending the book of Numbers, Israel has gone through the process of the “yetzia” – leaving Egypt to getting ready to enter the Promised Land. This journey took forty years and two generations. It was so difficult for that first generation to understand the concept of the one and only God of their forefathers because they had been totally immersed in the gods of Egypt who they had begun to believe were more powerful than the Bore Olam. That is why Moshe was chosen to return to Egypt from exile to show them who their God was and to bring them out of that land. The Ochel Moed had been built and the office of the Cohanim established. The second generation which was now ready to enter the Promised Land had never been slaves in Egypt nor were they caught up in the idea of being totally dependent on any other gods but the Bore Olam. However, the fears of the fathers had been passed onto the children who continued their behavior much to the displeasure of Moshe Rabeinu who did everything he could to set them in the right direction. Now he was old and tired and had lost his patience with them.
An important thing in this portion is the Bore Olam showing the people concerning vows. The same way that His Word is important, so too is our word. When we make a promise, or a vow, we need to keep it. Our great teacher and Messiah Yeshua told us that it would be better for us not to make a vow and that our yes needs to be yes and our no needs to be no. Later our sages developed the idea of the Kol Nidre or the annulment of our vows at the time of Yom Kippur, but this does not exist in the Torah except in the case of women who came under the protection of their parents or husbands; if their parents or husbands heard their vows, they had the right to annul them. But if they heard and said nothing, their vows remained intact. They needed to keep their word. This is showing us that there is power in the spoken word. We really don’t realize the impact of our words upon other people. When we are being flippant, as our words slide off our tongue easily or we make people believe something that isn’t true, we need to know that we are responsible and that there are consequences. The principles of the Torah are to help us live life in abundance, mentally, physically and spiritually, but when we are disobedient the opposite can be true.
In past messages, I have spoken of how the Creator breathed His Ruach, His Spirit into us. Every single human on this planet has been made in His likeness and image, so if that is the case, what happened to humanity to make people do so much evil on this earth? They have gone through the process of going from morality to immorality and when they persist, they move into amorality. The Pharaoh was a perfect example of someone becoming amoral. Moshe Rabeinu kept trying to guide him into doing what was right, but Pharaoh kept insisting on following the path to destruction. It seemed that the Creator had hardened his heart but in actuality, the Creator allowed Pharaoh to go to the point of no return – the state of amorality. That is where this world is heading today. The problem lies in their misuse of the Creator’s gift of “free will”, that which makes each of us responsible for our own actions. He doesn’t expect us to depend upon Him for everything; we have to do our part. Rabbi Maimonides, a very rationalistic rabbi, he taught about vows. He said that the Creator works through people. There are people who sit back and wait for miracles, but it is very important to understand that He works His miracles through us. He gave us this world to take care of; He told us to be fruitful, to multiply, and to supervise His creation. Wishful thinking gets us nowhere; we need to act. That is why our promises are so important. When we give someone our word, we had better keep it. Others are watching us. Our actions and even our non-action, speak louder than words.
Today we are living in an unjust world, while the majority of righteous people remain silent. When the Creator asked Cain where his brother was, he replied “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The answer of the Creator was yes. We all depend upon each other and Israel was chosen to be the example to the world about how to live in community and how to depend upon each other. Yet, at the end of Bamidbar we see this second generation falling apart because they had been contaminated by their parents. They would have to suffer the consequences of their own actions and learn not to blame their parents for what they did. The word Mattot (Tribes) signifies that everyone would be responsible for the others in their tribe. The last portion, Masei (Journeys or Stages) recounts the history of how the people of Israel would travel in circles from one station to the next without any apparent direction. Why would the Creator have the Israelites journey in such a way? During this period of time He would be training this new generation as we all need to be trained. Not one of us is born with knowledge but throughout our process of growing from babies to adulthood, we learn about right and wrong from our parents. What if we either don’t have parents or we have bad parents? Little by little we might deviate from the right path and live a wild life almost like animals. Animals however, do not perform the kind of horrific evils to others that we humans do. That is the result of man going through life apart from the principles that the Creator handed us i.e. the Ten Commandments, the basic constitution of Israel. We have to constantly battle the outside forces that pull us away from obeying them.
The book of Numbers ends with Israel not yet being able to enter the Promised Land. This is a picture for us to see that it is not “what” we have accomplished at the end of our life’s journey but “how” we have lived our lives during our journey; that it is what truly matters! Our next generation will receive this special message from us and my prayer that is that we learn His principles of good behavior and that we can understand our responsibility to one another. Morality is being muzzled and we must not allow this to continue. Let us be clear and speak out for what is right in the eyes of our Creator. Our word matters.