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Parashat Matot-Masei / פרשת מטות־מסעי

Crop of Moses Elects the Council of Seventy Elders by Jacob de Wit


Parashat Matot-Masei is a doubled parashah and the final reading of Bamidbar (“Numbers”) in the annual Torah reading cycle. Matot (מַּטּוֹת) means tribes and is the fifth word of Parashat Matot, which begins with Moshe’s (Moses’) address to the heads of the tribes of Yisrael (Israel) concerning HaShem’s instructions pertaining to vows and oaths made by men and women in Yisrael. Masei (מַסְעֵי) means journeys and is the second word of Parashat Masei, in which Moshe records the 42 stages of the journeys of Bnei Yisrael (the Children of Israel) through the wilderness after leaving Mitzrayim (Egypt), until they encamped on the plains of Moav (Moab).

After Moshe delivers HaShem’s instructions pertaining to vows and oaths in Yisrael, Parashat Matot-Masei continues with HaShem’s instructions to Moshe regarding how Yisrael is to respond to the Midyanim (Midianites) for the assault they waged on the people of Yisrael, after which Moshe is to be gathered to his people. The parashah describes a miraculous victory for Yisrael, with devastating results for Midyan. We also learn of the part Bilam ben Beor (Balaam the son of Beor) played in the seduction of the men of Yisrael by the daughters of Midyan, and what happened to him as a result. Moshe insists that justice is fully carried out, though mercy is extended to the women of Midyan who could not have been involved in the affair. After this, the parashah relates instructions pertaining to the purification of men after they go to war, of the plunder from the battle, as well as how the plunder is distributed.

Parashat Matot-Masei concludes with the petition of the people of Reuven (Reuben) and Gad to Moshe, Elazar, and the princes of the congregation, that they be permitted to inherit the land east of the Yarden (the Jordan), the lands formerly possessed by Sikhon (Sihon), king of the Emori (Amorites), and Og, king of the Bashan, who were defeated when they attacked Yisrael. The parashah records the reasoning behind the petition and Moshe’s response in addressing the potentially catastrophic implications for Yisrael, and the subsequent agreement that is made with Reuven, Gad, and Menasheh (Manasseh).

Parashat Matot-Masei continues with HaShem’s instructions to Bnei Yisrael through Moshe regarding the taking of the land of Kena’an (Canaan) and what is to be done with the inhabitants and their idols, as the people would imminently cross the Yarden. Detailed instructions are also given as to the precise borders of the land of Yisrael, as well as the division of the land among the tribes of Yisrael. HaShem further appoints princes by name from the tribes to administer the division of the land for inheritance among the people of Yisrael.

HaShem then commands the people of Yisrael to give 48 cities to the Levi’im (Levites) to possess and dwell in among them, together with surrounding pastureland for their animals. Precise measurements are provided for the dimensions of the surrounding pasturelands. Of the 48 cities of the Levi’im, six are to be used as Arei HaMiklat (Cities of Refuge), where someone may flee if they have killed a person accidentally. HaShem provides precise instructions as to who qualifies as a manslayer and who is guilty of murder, and reinforces the commandment that a murderer is to be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses.

Parashat Matot-Masei concludes with a question about whether lands in Yisrael inherited by a man’s daughter, if a man dies without sons, may be transferred from his tribe to another when his daughter marries. Moshe acknowledges the validity of the question and relays the answer from HaShem.

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Torah Portion: Numbers 30:2 – 36:13 (Hb.)

1st Aliyah: Numbers 30:2 – 31:12 (28 verses)
2nd Aliyah: Numbers 31:13-54 (42 verses)
3rd Aliyah: Numbers 32:1-19 (19 verses)
4th Aliyah: Numbers 32:20 – 33:49 (72 verses)
5th Aliyah: Numbers 33:50 – 34:15 (22 verses)
6th Aliyah: Numbers 34:16 – 35:8 (22 verses)
7th Aliyah: Numbers 35:9 – 36:13 (39 verses)
Maftir: Numbers 36:11-13 (3 verses)

Reading from the Nevi’im (Prophets):
Traditional Ashkenazi Reading: Jeremiah 2:4-28,3:4
Traditional Sephardic Reading: Jeremiah 2:4-28,4:1-4:2

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1st Aliyah
Bamidbar (Numbers) 30:2 – 31:12

2 And Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes of the Children of Yisrael, saying, ‘This is the word that HaShem has commanded:

ב וַיְדַבֵּ֤ר מֹשֶׁה֙ אֶל־רָאשֵׁ֣י הַמַּטּ֔וֹת לִבְנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל לֵאמֹ֑ר זֶ֣ה הַדָּבָ֔ר אֲשֶׁ֖ר צִוָּ֥ה יְהוָֽה׃

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