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Matot 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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Matot 5774-2014

Hakarat HaTov: Expressing Appreciation”

It is important to express gratitude for all the myriad kindnesses that are bestowed upon us. It is a lesson that Moses apparently learned well.

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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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Matot 5771-2011

“Leadership and its Moral Responsibilities”

Parashat Matot underscores the complexity of Jewish leadership. It is from the episode in this parasha that our rabbis derive the important principle that leaders are to be held responsible for the wrongdoings of the people, for they have the power and authority to protest.

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Matot 5768-2008

“Striving for Refined Speech”

In this week’s parasha, parashat Matot, we learn of the injunction against profane speech. It is from here that we learn not only to avoid negative speech, but to always strive to make our speech as refined as possible.

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Matot-Masei 5767-2007

“Vindicated Before G-d and Before People”

In parashat Matot, when the tribes of Reuben and Gad (and later half of Menashe) decided to stay on the eastern side of the Jordan, Moses suspected rebellion on the part of the people and feared that it may lead to tragedy. When Moses is convinced that the tribes intend to do their share in the battle against the Canaanites, he agrees to let them stay on the eastern side of the Jordan. Moses tells the tribes that if they do their share in the battle, “they will be vindicated before G-d and before Israel.” What does this notion of vindication mean?

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Matot-Masei 5766-2006

“Taking a Stand Against the Banality of Evil”

In Parashat Matot, we learn that the Israelite soldiers are instructed to avenge the harlotry of Midianites that resulted in the deaths of 24,000 Israelites in a plague. Despite this exceptional instance, the Jewish soldiers are reluctant to kill the women and children until a Divine command is issued. Why a Divine command? To teach how concerned Judaism is that killing never ever becomes casual or mundane, and to assure that indifference to life never finds a home in the hearts of the Jewish people.

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Matot 5765-2005

“Love of G-d Trumps Lust for Life”

In parashat Matot, Moses is told to lead the people in battle to avenge the Midianites and afterwards he will be gathered unto his people. Moses not only does not hesitate, he responds with alacrity and joy, even though he knows that the fulfillment of this command will hasten his death. This diminutive verse reveals much about our leader, our master, Moses.

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Matot-Masei 5763-2003

“The Massacre of the Midianites: Does Judaism Countenance Genocide?”

In parashat Matot, G-d tells Moses to mobilize the army of Israel and exact vengeance on the Midianites. The rabbis of old are troubled by this call. They explain that “genocide” was never countenanced by Jewish law, but rather that it was necessary to always first sue the enemy for peace and give them opportunity to flee if they refused to live in peace. Nevertheless, Jewish tradition teaches that one should not be overly compassionate, otherwise one will wind up being cruel at a time when compassion is appropriate.

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Matot-Masei 5761-2001

“Setting Our Priorities Straight”

In parashat Matot we learn of the tribes of Reuben and Gad (later joined by half of Menashe) who choose to remain on the eastern side of the Jordan. Moses is concerned that they will not join in the battle to conquer the Holy Land. The tribes respond, “We will build pens for our livestock and cities for our small children,” and of course they will send troops. Moses, however, corrects them, telling them that their children should come before their livestock. The value of human life is infinite and must always come first, even in a thoroughly materialistic generation such as the one in which we live.

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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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