• Rabbi Skorka

Matot -Masei: The end of the journey through the desert



These two parashot, which are usually read together, both list laws and regulations about the conquest of the land of Canaan and its division among the tribes, including laws concerning inheritance rights.


Two concepts stand out among the precepts mentioned in these parashot. Matot begins by enumerating the rules about fulfilling a vow: when a vow can be annulled and when it must be completed unfailingly. The Talmud later dedicated one of its volumes, Nedarim, to this subject. It is the sanctity of the sworn word that that these laws aim to protect. One of the most precious gifts that God gave to the human being is the word. Its power is expressed by the psalmist (34: 13-15) saying:


Who is the man who is eager for life;

who desires years of good fortune?


Guard your tongue from evil,

your lips from deceptive speech.


Shun evil and do good,

seek integrity and pursue it.

In Masei the provisions for the creation of refuge cities are mentioned, where the person who accidentally killed someone should stay. Unlike the provisions of older codes in which there was no distinction between the one who kills by accident and the one who does so deliberately (Hammurabi 229), the Torah marks a sharp difference between the two.

The book of Numbers ends by telling that the children of Israel reached the Jordan, faced the land where they would build their lives, and ended an early stage in their history as a people. Earlier they had received the teaching of God in the desert, now the time was beginning for them to put it into practice in all aspects of their lives.


Shabbat Shalom!

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