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Parshat Mattot-Mas'ei

The final chapters of Numbers, read together, begin with a woman's vows. Essentially, they are null and void--unless the man responsible for her, like a father or husband--is aware of them. In that case, the woman is on the hook for her promises made. (So is an independent woman, in this context a divorced or widowed woman: "...(they) shall be binding upon her.") A thousand men from each tribe are selected to "fall upon Midian to wreak the Lord's vengeance on Midian". With evangelical Pinchas "serving as a priest on the campaign", this army "(slays) every male" and the Midianite kings, including "Balaam son of Beor" who figured prominently a few weeks ago in the story of the talking donkey.

When the Midianite women and children are taken captive, Moses is outraged, for these females "...are the very ones...who induced the Israelites to trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor".

That's a reference to an earlier portion in which the Midianite sexpots seduced Israelite men, leading them to paganism. In response, G-d unleashed a terrible plague on His people. (And my kids thinks Shabbat Mom is tough about preaching in-marriage!) Moses now orders that every male child and every adult woman be killed--except for the virgins. The extensive booty is to be equally divided once "You shall exact a levy for the Lord." And now it's time to divvy up The Promised Land. The Reubenites and the Gadites, heavy with cattle, ask to set up shop in the place known as the Transjordan, just before the crossing of the Jordan River, arguing that this area, too, is promised by the Lord and will benefit their herds. Moses agrees as long as these men serve as "shock-troops in the van of the Israelites until we have established them in their home..." Mas'ei records in one place the 40-year, circuitous itinerary of the Israelites from the moment they leave Egypt until they are poised to enter the holy place that, thousands of years later, remains the Jewish homeland. "'When you enter the land of Canaan,'" the Lord tells Moses, "'this is the land that shall fall to you as your portion, the land of Canaan with its various boundaries...'"

G-d then details each of those lines in the sand, a Holy roadmap that remains deeply relevant (though admittedly complex) until today.

There's no place like home!

Shabbat Shalom!

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