Shabbat Shalom: Parshat Matot-Masei (Numbers 30:2- 36:13) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – “This is the matter that the LORD has commanded concerning the daughters of Tzelofhad, saying: Let them be married to whom they think best… Just as the LORD commanded Moses, so did the daughters of Zelophehad” (Numbers 36:6,10). What can we …

Read more

Rabbi Dr. Mikhael Ben Admon

Victory by Force of Arms vs. a Victory of the Spirit Rabbi Dr. Michael Ben Admon is the Director of the Maarava Program for Rabbinical Emissaries to Sephardic Communities A quick peek into human history suffices to show that human beings are unable to conduct their lives without engaging in war.  Conflicts come about for a …

Read more

“Parsha and Purpose” – Mattot-Masei 5780
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“Learning From Our Mistakes; Defeating a Pandemic”

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. 

“Learning From Our Mistakes; Defeating a Pandemic”

We really thought we had done it. In Israel at least, we thought we had gotten control over the coronavirus, as the government announced a relaxation of restrictions. 

We had just begun to deal with the economic and psychological impacts of the lockdown, only to find ourselves now being thrust backwards.

Given the feelings of uncertainty, confusion, fear and even anger that have come to dominate our consciousness, wherever we may be, our parsha, Matot-Mas’ei, contains an insight that speaks to our lives in a very meaningful way:

אלה מסעי בני ישראל…

“These are journeys of the Jewish people”

ויכתב משה…  

“and Moshe wrote them down…”

על פי ה׳ 

“according to the command of God.” Numbers 33:1-2

The painstaking recording of all of these journeys, 42 in all, seems to be superfluous. 

Why do we need this exhaustive list of every single encampment of the Jewish People in the desert?

I’d like to share with you an insight based on halakhic rulings of the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch that will shed a light on a possible answer that truly speaks to us. 

The Shulchan Aruch rules that the number of lines in each parchment of a Torah scroll should be 42, equal to the number of the Jewish People’s journeys. Based on Soferim 2:11

After all, if the Torah is to be our roadmap for life, it should celebrate the idea that life is about the journeys that we take, and therefore each piece of parchment should correspond to the number of journeys we took.

In contrast, the Rambam rules that each parchment should be no less than 48 lines. Mishneh Torah, Tefillin, Mezuzah and the Torah Scroll 7:10


His view is that each parchment must highlight not only the 42 stops going forward, but also the six occasions on which they retreated in their desert travels. Toward the end of the desert journey, they actually revisit six of their previous encampments, and confront the  mistakes they made there.

While we usually think that life is all about moving forward, often, we need to retreat from the progress that we’ve made: to take a step back, and have the humility to learn from our mistakes and re-evaluate our decisions. 

It is through this process that we grow and truly move forward.

As millions of people across the globe are experiencing a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic – or an intensification of the first wave – we have had to retreat to previous stops on this surreal journey. 

Maybe we have to return because we have still not internalized the lesson from the first wave. 

We forgot about our responsibility to each other. 

We stopped wearing masks and we made them into chin guards, or we wore masks but they didn’t cover our noses.

We became “so religious” that we still felt mandated to go to shul even when not feeling well, though it meant potentially infecting others.

We figured out clever ways to get around the law … we called gyms “shuls” so we could have 19 people, and counted 50 couples at a wedding as 50 people…  instead of abiding by the health regulations out of an understanding that they exist in order to protect others – as much as ourselves.

Our actions have now brought us to the point of retreat. 

As we enter this phase of the pandemic, we must remember the lesson of the Rambam: learning from our retreats and our mistakes is an integral part of humanity’s zig-zagging journey forward. 

Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Dr. Mikhael Ben Admon

Parshat Matot: On Militarism and Pacifism A Zionist dispute between Yitzhak Tabenkin and Moshe Unna encourages us to shatter social norms and allows for a more sophisticated way of thinking about the status of war and the need for war nowadays. Rabbi Dr. Michael Ben Admon is the Director of the Maarava Program for Rabbinical …

Read more

Rabbi Riskin

Shabbat Shalom: Matot-Masei (Numbers 30:2-36:13) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel –   What unites Jews throughout the world as one nation and one people? What is the most critical factor responsible for our amazing persistence as a unique historical entity, despite our having been scattered throughout the globe and subject to persecution and pogrom, despite …

Read more

This week’s parsha commentary has been sponsoredby the Charif family of Sydney, Australia in memory of Hymie Charif (Refael Chaim Yishayahu ben Yitzchak) whose 23rd Yartzheit is on 2 Av Shabbat Shalom: Matot-Masei (Numbers 30:2-36:13) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin    Efrat, Israel: “This is the thing [or word] which God has commanded.”  (Numbers 30:2) How was …

Read more

Parshat Matot-Masei (Numbers 30:2-36:13) Rabbi David Stav As we conclude the Book of Numbers, we read for the first time of any part of our people expressing a desire to take leave of the other tribes. We have already read about how the nation sinned, complained, and disagreed with each other – but this is a …

Read more

Parshat Matot-Masei (Numbers 30:2–36:13) Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – This week’s double portion records how the Jews finally cross the Jordan River on their way to conquer the Promised Land. The tribes of Gad, Reuven and half the tribe of Menashe possess a great multitude of cattle, and “paradise” for cattle is good grazing …

Read more