Who Gets the Last Word?

Who Gets the Last Word?

Jul 9, 2021 By Judith Hauptman | Commentary | Masei | Mattot

Mattot and Masei, the last two portions of the book of Numbers (30:2–36:18), are usually read one after the other on the same Sabbath. Are these portions linked by something other than the quirks of the Jewish calendar?

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Restorative Justice from Numbers to Now

Restorative Justice from Numbers to Now

Jul 17, 2020 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Masei | Mattot

What does restorative justice look like? The Torah pauses Israel’s journey toward the Land to consider this complex question. Forty years of desert wandering have come to their end, and only the thin ribbon of the River Jordan divides the Israelites from their promised land. As the distance remaining falls to footsteps, urgency mounts to establish values and norms for sovereignty and justice.

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Boundaries on the Move

Boundaries on the Move

Aug 2, 2019 By Benjamin D. Sommer | Commentary | Masei | Mattot

Every week, we read a parashah from the Torah during our Shabbat morning service, and then the beginning of the next parashah during our Shabbat afternoon service. The result of reading from two parashiyot on a single day can be surprising. This week, as we read first from Masei, the last parashah of Numbers, and then from Devarim, the first from Deuteronomy, we can hear an ancient debate about an issue that remains deeply contested: where to draw the line.

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First and second haftarot of rebuke

First and second haftarot of rebuke

Jul 6, 2018 By Jan Uhrbach | Commentary | Masei | Mattot | Pinehas | Tishah Be'av

Chapters 1 and 2 of Jeremiah constitute the first two haftarot of “calamity” or rebuke. In them, the prophet anticipates disorienting but necessary societal upheaval; he is called “to uproot and pull down, destroy and overthrow,” and also “to build and to plant.” 

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Always Attaining Spiritual Maturity

Always Attaining Spiritual Maturity

Jul 13, 2018 By Joel Alter | Commentary | Masei | Mattot

The US Constitution provides that one must be 35, 30, or 25 years old to be president, senator, or representative, respectively, and the 26th Amendment provides that a US citizen gains the right to vote at 18. In the United States, the right to drink alcohol is established at age 21. One must stay in school and cannot give consent for sexual activity until age 16–18. For a driver’s license, one must generally be 16. So I grimace when we proudly proclaim 12-year-old girls and 13-year-old boys “Jewish adults.”

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Journeying through Jewish History

Journeying through Jewish History

Jul 21, 2017 By Nancy Sinkoff | Commentary | Masei | Mattot

I first encountered this book in my supplementary Hebrew school at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck when I was a teenager. The documents, photographs, newspaper reports and Yiddish language characters entranced me then. . . . and still do. At that tender age, I thought I wanted to grow up to be a marine biologist. Instead, embedded in my young soul, those images of East European Jews, who had journeyed—like our forebears in this week’s parashah (Numbers 33:1-37)—from far away to a land they did not know, propelled me on a lifelong journey as a historian of the Jews of Eastern Europe.

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Upgrading the Torah—and the World

Upgrading the Torah—and the World

Jul 21, 2017 By Benjamin D. Sommer | Commentary | Masei | Mattot

Is God’s law perfect? Most of us would assume that anything created by an omniscient and omnipotent being must have no flaws. But a story in today’s parashah suggests otherwise—in a manner that shows a surprising similarity to a key concept of Jewish mysticism.

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The Journey or the Destination?

The Journey or the Destination?

Aug 5, 2016 By Anna Serviansky | Commentary | Masei | Mattot

Life’s like a road that you travel on
When there’s one day here and the next day gone .  .  .

Life is a highway
I want to ride it all night long
If you’re going my way
I want to drive it all night long

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A Summer of Discontent

A Summer of Discontent

Aug 5, 2016 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Masei | Mattot

The violent and disturbing events of this summer have given me new appreciation for the book of Numbers, and particularly for its conclusion. After chapter upon chapter of intrigue, rebellion, orgy, and mayhem, attention shifts in parashat Masei, the second part of this week’s double parashah, to a series of routine arrangements and details, elaborated at times in rhythmic repetition.

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The Blessing for What Goes Into our Food

The Blessing for What Goes Into our Food

Jul 30, 2011 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Masei

Are blessings over food spontaneous or rote? Do we bless our food out of gratitude for nourishment—or do we use the moments surrounding that most basic animal act of eating for spiritual uplift?

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