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Parashat Matot-Masei - 5775

My friends,

This Shabbat we read a double portion, Matot and Masei.

The first Parasha begins with these words:

"Moses spoke to the heads of the Israelite tribes, saying: This is what the L-rd has commanded: If a man makes a vow to the L-rd or takes an oath imposing an obligation on himself; he must carry out all that has come out of his mouth." (Numbers 30:2-3)

We have learned in other places that the way Moses taught the Torah to the Israelites was always in this manner - by first teaching the heads of the tribes, and then the leaders would teach their respective tribes. The question, therefore, is why is it that in this particular teaching it is emphasized that Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes?

The injunction of keeping one's word is very important for a just and trusting society. It would seem that leaders, in particular, need a constant reminder of keeping their word. We know too well how promises are made during a political campaign, and how soon they are forgotten once in office.

We are all disturbed by the recent Iran deal. Promises were made that Iran will not become a nuclear power. Now we are told that that was only for the next ten or fifteen years. After that, Iran can do whatever they wish. Inspectors were supposed to be able to have access "anywhere, anytime" to make certain that Iran does not cheat. Now we are learning that the inspectors will need permission and that it would take a long process to get Iran to agree to such inspections.

The second Parasha concludes the Book of Bamidbar, the 40 years of wandering. We learn of the journeys that the Israelites made throughout those forty years. The Torah lists forty-two stops on their way to the Promised Land. The Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hassdism explains that every human being, from the day of birth until leaving this world, will experience forty-two spiritual stages that he or she should strive to accomplish.

Massei means travels, journeys - not standing in one place, but moving, being constantly on the move, always striving to reach the next level. As we conclude Bamidbar and say "Hazak Hazak venithazek" - "be strong, be strong and let us be strengthened" - I wish for you that all your journeys be good and fulfilling, and may you always be in a position to always keep your word.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram