This Week’s Torah Portion: Matot-Masei

Name: Matot-Masei

Reading: Matot: Numbers 30:2 – 32:42; Masei: Numbers 33:1 – 36:13

Bonus Double Parsha!

Parsha Summary – Matot Masei

The Laws of Vows

Any man who makes a vow must fulfil his promise. Women must too, unless her husband stops her, in which case God will forgive her promise. Widowed or divorced women are responsible for their own vows.

Battle with the Midianites

God tells Moses to take revenge on the Midianites for corrupting the Israelites with idolatry and immorality. He tells him that he will die after this final victory. Moses does as God commanded: the Israelites mount a campaign against Midian and kill all the men, including the kings and Balaam. They captured the women, children, livestock, and possessions.

The men bring their war spoils back to Moses and Eleazar. Moses is angry: after all, he says that the Midianite women led the Israelites to sin in the first place. He commands them to kill all the male children, and all the women who are not virgins. Everyone who kills someone must stay outside the camp for a week to be cleared of sin.

God tells Moses to divide the war spoils between the warriors and the whole community, with a donation for God and for the priests. The spoils include virgin women, animals, and gold.

Reuben and Gad Claim their Lands

The tribes of Reuben and Gad are wealthy, with lots of cattle. They see the fertile pasture lands of Yaazer and Gilead and ask Moses and Eleazar if they can stay there rather than crossing into God’s land. Moses asks if their brothers should go to war without them? And why stay there instead of trusting that the scouts found a good land that could support them? He calls them a brood of sinful men, and says that their actions will kindle God’s anger against Israel.

The Reubenites and Gadites tell Moses that they will build pens for the cattle and cities for their children, then take the Israelites into the land and stay until they are all settled in the promised land. Only then will they return and claim their inheritance on this side. Moses tells them that if they help drive out God’s enemies and conquer the land, then they may stay. As promised, the women and herds and children stay behind in Gilead, and the men go with their brothers.

Moses recounts the Hebrews’ journey so far, from the Exodus and death of the Egyptian firstborns until now. God tells Moses to tell the people that when they arrive in Canaan, they must drive out the people and destroy their idols and places of worship. If they don’t drive them out, they will oppress the Israelites as enemies and God will become an enemy.

Moses tells the Hebrews about the borders of Canaan, and the portion of land intended for each tribe. Each tribe will give a portion of their property, land, and animals to the Levite priests who will serve God instead of receiving their own portion.

Murder Laws

God tells the Moses to command the people to create six safe cities as refuge for people who commit murder, until after they are judged. Murderers are to be put to death, as long as there are two witnesses. If someone kills accidentally, he should be taken to a safe city, but if he leaves, he may be killed. The promised land must be kept pure because God will watch the Israelites.

Inheritance laws are clarified.