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Masei Summaries

Matot-Masei 5778-2018

“Judaism and Warfare”

The great battle that Israel waged to avenge Midian for leading the men of Israel astray is described in what appears to be a very cruel and heartless manner. Judaism’s attitude toward warfare is nevertheless quite enlightened.

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Matot-Masei 5777-2017

“Vows and Oaths”

As a unique gift from G-d to humankind, the endowment of speech must be fiercely guarded and used correctly. It is perhaps the most powerful tool in the human repository to bring goodness and blessing to the world.

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Matot-Masei 5776-2016

“Rosh Chodesh Av – Remembering the Passing of a Beloved Leader”

Aaron, the High Priest, is the only great figure in the Bible whose exact date of death is known.

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Matot-Masei 5775-2015

“The Noble Calling of the Levites: Serving as an Exemplar for the Jewish People”

How is it possible that the descendants of Levi, the murderous and violent son of Jacob, were chosen to serve as role models for all the tribes of Israel?

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Masei 5774-2014

“On the Road: The Lessons of Hindsight”

We need to carefully heed the lessons of the ancient Israelites who “traveled” and “encamped” for 40 years in the wilderness, and benefit from the incredible opportunity that hindsight provides.

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Matot-Masei 5773-2013

“Pinchas Avenges the Midianites”

Why is the zealous Pinchas chosen to lead the people of Israel into battle against the Midianites?

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Matot-Masei 5772-2012

“Words that Hurt, Words that Heal”

In parashat Matot, we are immediately confronted with the exceptional power of words.

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Masei 5771-2011

“The Never-Ending Journey of the Jewish People”

It is important to carefully consider and review the ancient journeys of our people and learn from them, both the successes and the failures, as we travel on our own personal journeys to our own longed-for destinations.

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Matot-Masei 5770-2010

“Do Not Pollute the Land…Do Not Defile the Land”

In the second of this week’s parashiot, parashat Masei, the Al-mighty warns the people of Israel not to “pollute” or “defile” the land of Israel. Perhaps this warning should also be taken as an admonition that Jews neither excessively flatter Israel nor be overly critical of the land.

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Matot-Masei 5769-2009

“The Lesson of the Journeys”

Parashat Masei contains an account of the 42 locations where the people of Israel encamped during their 40 year journey in the wilderness. While the emphasis on the details seems to be unnecessary, there are many lessons to be garnered from the abundant details.

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Masei 5768-2008

“Optimism: The Call of the Hour”

From slight nuances in the textual structure, we learn that the priorities of the people were different from the priorities of Moses. Our rabbis teach that Moses possessed a sense of optimism that was lacking in the people of Israel.

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Masei 5765-2005

“The Role of Witnesses and Testimony”

Parashat Masei features a chapter devoted to the case of accidental homicide. Nevertheless, this chapter also includes laws regarding premeditated homicide and definitively states that one witness is not acceptable in capital cases. This revolutionary Jewish juridical innovation underscores once again the principle of the sanctity of human life that governs all of Judaism.

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Matot-Masei 5764-2004

“The Mitzvah of Living in the Land of Israel”

In parashat Masei, G-d commands the Jewish people that when they enter the land of Canaan they are to drive out all the Canaanite inhabitants of the land, for G-d has given the land to the People of Israel to possess it. The ancient tradition holds that there are 613 mitzvot in the Torah. However, there is no definitive listing of those 613 mitzvot. Consequently, the question arises of whether there is an explicit Torah mitzvah to settle in the land of Israel or not. This question was an issue of great dispute between Maimonides and Nachmanides.

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Matot-Masei 5762-2002

“Does the Torah Allow Its Citizens to Take the Law Into Their Own Hands?”

In parashat Masei, we encounter the astounding and perplexing law known as Eir Miklat, the City of Refuge. It is to the City of Refuge that an accidental killer must run in order to escape the vengeance of the next of kin, who has the right to kill the perpetrator if he catches him before he enters the city. Does Judaism allow its citizens to take the law into their own hands?

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Matot-Masei 5760-2000

“Jeremiah’s Prophecy: An Ancient Message for Contemporary Times”

The message of Jeremiah, which is read during the Three Weeks, is entirely appropriate for this period of sadness that we experience at this time of the year. There are distinct parallels between the rebuke that Jeremiah gave to the ancient people and our contemporary experiences.

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