Mattot & Massei- Shared Reading
Torah Portions 4.9 & 4.10: Bamidbar (Numbers) 30:2-36:13
Hebrew Word/Phrase of the Week: Mattot & Massei
Meaning: Matot meaning “Tribes” and Massei meaning “Journeys”
Mattot (מטות), which means “tribes”, and Massei (מסעי), a meaning “journeys” are the last Torah Portions for the book of Bamidbar (Numbers). These portions are about how the land will be divided, and also talk about the cities of refuge.
Chapter 30 (continued): Here’s a quick summary of what happened last week: YHWH rewards Pinehas (Aharon’s grandson) with the everlasting priesthood, for his act that stopped the deadly plague YHWH poured on the people because of their sins with the Midyanite and Mo’abite people. YHWH let’s Moshe know his time is coming and appoints Yashuwshuwa son of Nun as the new leader. We leave off with YHWH speaking to Moshe about his festivals and now YHWH tells him that if a person swears a vow to YHWH, he’s going to hold them responsible, so they better be careful to keep it. The only way YHWH would pardon their vow is if a woman’s vow was nullified by her husband or her father (if she is young) and they do it when they hear her say it.
Chapter 31: Next YHWH tells Moshe to get the Midyanties back for their tricks! So Moshe sends 1,000 armed men from every tribe. Along with Pinehas and trumpets, they get rid of the people, keeping some as captives, taking their plunder and burning their cities too. They also get rid of Bil’am.
Fun Fact: Why Bil’am? Remember the plague that Pinehas stopped? Bil’am (who’s a sorcerer) is one who gave council to the Mo’abite people and caused the children of Yashra’el to trespass against YHWH. Therefore, he also passed away by the sword with the others.
When they get back to camp, the army has to clean themselves (set themselves apart), their captives, every garment and every object that had to do with the war. YHWH instructs them on how to divide all the plunder and designates a portions of the riches to El’azer (Aharon’s son, now the High Priest) as a contribution from him, and another portion to the Lewites for their service guarding the duty of the Dwelling Place. The rest is split between those from the battle and the rest of the congregation. Then, the commanders from the battle came to Moshe and brought a special portion of their gold they wanted to give to YHWH for not losing any men in the battlefield. Moshe and El’azer receive the gift and bring it to the Tent of Meeting (Mishkan/Dwelling Place) as a remembrance for the children of Yashra’el before YHWH.
Chapter 32: And after the battle, the children from the tribes of Re’uben and Gad went to speak with Moshe, El’azer and the leaders to take their portion of inheritance from the areas and cities they just overtook. Though they people weren’t in the Promised Land yet, the people from the tribes of Re’uben and Gad had a very large number of livestock, and these places were places perfect and ready for livestock. Moshe warned the tribes not to lead the people astray by not going into the Promised Land, but they all agreed, that as long as all the capable men from their tribes still went to battle alongside their brothers (the rest of the tribes) until everyone had their inheritance of land, they could take those places as the portion, instead of alongside the rest of the tribes in the promised land.
Fun Fact: Though it doesn’t mention the tribe of Meneshshesh going with the tribes of Re’uben and Gad to speak withe Moshe, they also inherit a portion of those lands with them.
Chapter 33: In this chapter, we get a summary of all the places the children of Yashra’el went to. Starting from Mitsrayim (Egypt) all the way to where they are now in the Yarden of Yeriho (Jericho) in the desert plains of Mo’ab.
Chapter 34: Then YHWH speaks to Moshe and sets out the measurments (perimeter) of the size the Promised Land, using locations and seas as their markers.
Chapter 35: YHWH then lays out special instructions for all the children of Yashra’el to give the Lewites some of their cities for them to live in, and also land for all their cattle and livestock. The way this worked was the larger tribes gave more of the cities and land, and the smaller tribes gave less. All together, the Lewites would have 48 cities, along with the open land for their animals.
What’s also interesting is YHWH tells Moshe that the people should choose 6 of the Lewites cities to be cities of refuge also. YHWH then gives right-rulings for the people and designates the 6 cities so that if someone had accidentally killed someone else, they could flee to 1 of the 6 cities (belonging to the Lewites) for safety until they had a fair trial. So if an avenger was chasing this person, they couldn’t take revenge if the accused person flees to one of those cities, until the fair trial. It also wasn’t enough for one person to blame someone for the accused person to be put to death.
However, if the accused person used an item to kill that person intentionally, there would definitely be revenge. And not from the congregation, but from the avenger who wants to revenge the person’s death.
So how long does the accused person stay there? Well, only until they have a fair trial. That is, unless they have the fair trial and are redeemed by the congregation of people. If this happens and the person is seen as not guilty, then the accused person has to stay there until the current High Priest passes away. But don’t get to antsy to go home! The rule is to stay put there until this happens, and the consequences for not listening could mean that bad stuff. If the avenger finds out the person leaves the city, the are not guilty if they take revenge when they find that accused person outside the city limits. Just another reason to follow YHWH’s rules.
Chapter 36: And as the rules for the dividing of land had come about, so did the clans of Menashsheh come before Moshe. Remember in our last Torah portion when the daughters of Tselophhad were worried about their father’s name not being remembered? They were from the tribe of Menashsheh and wanted to ensure they received land as a inheritance since their father didn’t have any sons. And now the tribe is concerned that if the daughters marry from another tribe, would those tribes inherit the land that should have been left to the tribe of Menashsheh? And Moshe said that their concern is right, and the 5 daughters were to marry from their own tribe so that their tribe could keep the land that should be theirs, and they did just as Moshe said.
That’s it for Bamidbar (Numbers)! Want to know more? Join us next time as we start in Debarim (Deuteronomy).