Masaei (Journeys) – Weekly Torah PortionMasaei Parsha – Weekly Torah Portion
MATTOT/MASSEI (מטות | Tribes)
TORAH : NUMBERS 30:2-36:13
PROPHETS : JER. 1:1-2:4-28, 3:4
GOSPEL : MATTHEW 23:1-39/MATTHEW 24:1-25:46
From ancient times there has been a weekly portion (Parashah) from the first five books of Moses (The Torah) and an ending (Haftarah) from the Prophets read on the Sabbath in synagogues around the world. This portion is given a Hebrew name drawn from the opening words of the Torah passage. An illustration of this practice appears to have been recorded in Luke 4:16 where Yeshua (Jesus) arrived in the synagogue in Nazareth and was asked to read the portion (Isaiah 61) from the Prophets.
We have found that in perusing these weekly readings, not only are we provided opportunity to identify in the context of God’s Word with millions of Jewish people around the world, but very often the Holy Spirit will illumine specific passages pertinent that week in our intercession for the Land and people of Israel. The Haftarah, unless otherwise noted, will be that read in Ashkenazy synagogues around the world. The references for all texts are those found in English translations of the Scriptures.
The Parashah for this week July 31- August 6, 2016 is called Massei- “Journies of…”
TORAH: Numbers 33:1—36:13
HAFTARAH: Jeremiah 2:4-28; 3:4; 4:1-2 (2nd “Haftarah of Affliction/Admonition”)
“Now at the end of the long chain of Wilderness stories that began in Exodus, as the Israelites are poised to cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, we get a grand recapitulation of the whole narrative in the form of an itinerary of all the “way stations” in the Wilderness march” (Alter, Robert: The Five Books of Moses, W.W.Norton & Co: New York, London, 2004 (p. 852, n 1).
*Numbers 33:1. “These are the journeys of the children of Israel, who went out of the land of Egypt by their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron. (Emphases ours)
As noted when this ‘going forth’ from Egypt was first recorded (Exodus 12:41, 51; 13:18), although the Children of Israel may not yet have been fully aware that they were an “army” (with each member assigned his/her positioning in its arraying), YHVH Tz’vaot, Elohei Ma’arkhot Yisrael (“Yehovah of Armies, God of the Arraying of Israel”—I Samuel 17:45) was well aware! When people are brought out of the slave-house of sin into the Kingdom of Heaven, they will soon discover that they are in a war—but also that they have a place especially reserved in the army of the Captain of the Hosts of the LORD!
*Numbers 33:2. “And Moses wrote down their departure points for their journeying by the word of the LORD, and these are their journeying by their departure points” (Robert Alter, trans).
“Departure points” (Hebrew: motz’a) is also sometimes translated into English as “starting points” or “places of origin”. All have validity, albeit resulting in slightly different perspectives. In fact, this word is related to that used of God in the traditional Hebrew blessing over meals, Ha’motzi lechem min haAretz”—“Who brings forth bread from the earth”. So the passage might even be interpreted to read, “Moses wrote down those places from which they were brought forth for their journey”. An old Jewish proverb goes something like this, “You can’t know where you’re going ‘til you know where you came from.” It was important that the Hebrews keep a record of these starting/departure points from which, in the timings of the LORD, they had been continually drawn forth—back into the path of their journeying (Numbers 9:18).
*Numbers 36:7. “And an estate of the Israelites shall not turn round from tribe to tribe, but the Israelites shall cling each man to the estate of the tribe of his fathers” (Robert Alter, trans.).
“Cling” comes from the same Hebrew word used in Genesis 2:24 regarding a man and his wife. It was this charge as related to inherited land which likely fueled Naboth’s response to Ahab in I Kings 21:3, “YHVH Forbid! That I should give the inheritance of my fathers to you!”
It is important to pray for Israelis returning to the Land of their Fathers—that they will receive from the Lord a fierce, strong zeal after that land, a holy jealousy in valuing this inheritance passed down from the Fathers, who received it as an eternal Covenant from the God who chose them and met with them here!
*After Numbers 36:13:
KhaZAK! KhaZAK! V’Nit’khaZEK!—“Be Strong! Be Strong! And we Shall Become Stronger!!
It is traditional to chant this admonishment after reaching the end of each of the Five Books of Moses.
(“Haftarah of Affliction/Admonition”): Jeremiah 2:4-28; 3:4; 4:1-2
*Jeremiah 2:13. “For my people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the Source of living water, and they have hewed themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water.”
*Jeremiah 3:4 [Read in Ashkenazy Synagogues]: “Will you not from this time cry to Me, ‘My Father, You are the guide of my youth?’”
*Jeremiah 4:1-2 [Read in Sephardic Jewish Synagogues]: “ ‘If you will return, O Israel,’ declares the LORD, ‘then you should return to me. And if you will put away your detested things from My presence, and will not waver, and you will swear ‘As the LORD lives’ in truth, in justice and in righteousness; then the nations will bless themselves in Him, and in Him they will glory.”
It has always been God’s plan that as Israel comes into a right relationship with her God repercussions will be felt throughout the world, and the nations will come into a new revelation of His Glory, and “bless themselves in Him!”
The Torah and Haftarah portions for next week (August 7-13 2016) are called D’varim—“Words”
TORAH: Deuteronomy 1:1—3:22
HAFTARAH (Shabbat Chazon—“Sabbath of Vision”): Isaiah 1:1-27
In A Nutshell
The portion, Masaei (Journeys) describes the journeys of the children of Israel, the stops where they parked in the desert, and their final preparations to enter the land of Israel. The portion details several commandments, such as the obliteration of idol worship, cities of refuge, the rules regarding involuntary manslaughter, appointing presidents to the tribes under the leadership of Joshua, son of Nun, and Elazar the Priest, dedicating cities for the people of the tribe of Levi, and a description of the boundaries of the land.
The portion ends with the continuation of the story of the daughters of Zelophehad, the fear of the tribe of Menashe that they would marry men from other tribes, thus causing the tribe of Menashe to lose its lots. In consequence, Moses issues a warrant prohibiting the daughters of Zelophehad from marrying men of other tribes, as well as other prohibitions that concern marriages of people from different tribes.
The portion is a preparation to enter the land of Israel. At this stage we begin the inner work, rising to a degree where our will to receive connects with the upper force. Here we discover the upper force because we are living inside that desire.
It is written that the land of Israel is the land where the Creator is present from the beginning of the year to its end. That is, He is always in the land of Israel—in a desire that is aiming entirely to bestow, Yashar El (straight to God). A person discovers the upper force within that desire and is in Dvekut (adhesion) with it. This is the intention of the land of Israel.
From this we can learn to what extent we are not in the spiritual land of Israel, but in the corporeal one. Kabbalists tell us that we have been given the opportunity to return to the corporeal (physical) land of Israel so as to rise to the spiritual one. For this purpose, we must all be together, united as a family, “as one man with one heart,” as in “All of Israel are friends” and as in “love your neighbor as yourself.” We have connected on the stipulation of mutual guarantee, and only if we meet this criterion will we enter the land of Israel.
All the conditions and laws we have adopted thus far—and have attempted to keep when coping with the problems that arose within us as unfavorable desires that should be corrected—have been corrected in the previous state in the portion, Matot (Tribes). In Matot, we arranged the Kelim (vessels) as a summary of what we went through in the period of the desert, when we rose to the state of wanting to bestow in order to bestow. Now we are facing the entrance to the land of Israel, the will to receive in order to bestow.
For this reason, before us are a summary of the previous matters and a last examination of the conditions. We are coordinated in our corrected state, a state called “the land of Israel.” On the one hand, a person must be connected with all the tribes, with all the others, with his brothers. One must be in a state of “all of Israel are friends,” “as one man with one heart,” seeking everybody’s favor, and we must be in equivalence between us.
On the one hand, we need to see the other parts of the people—to detect the twelve tribes and to adhere to the prohibition on intermarriage. That prohibition means that one must match the right desire to the right act. It is called “matching a woman to a man” so they are in congruence and can bear the proper, good results, and are not confused by one another. To obtain something, one must work with the desires with which one was born, and not confuse a person toward achievements on the earthly level.
The same is true for the cities of refuge, the division of the land, and the boundaries of the land. The word Eretz (land) comes from the word Ratzon (desire). By knowing one’s own desire and the people’s general desire, we must all, like cells in an organism, work as cogwheels in a uniform manner to achieve the state of “the people of Israel in the land of Israel.” Then, according to the level of congruence between us, the favorable integration and the right connection we will have, we will feel that the upper force is present among us. That state will protect us against every trouble and plight, from the smallest to the biggest.
If each of us—and all of us together—arrive, even if just a little, at a state that resembles that desire, a state of mutual bestowal, mutual love, mutual connection, a bit like the true definition of the land of Israel, we are guaranteed to be rewarded with the upper force. We will be rewarded with the strongest spiritual “roof” over us, with which we will thrive and chase our enemies away.
The people of Israel has returned to the land of Israel sixty-four years ago, but still seeks the real meaning of being “in the land of Israel.” What does it really mean to be in Israel?
Man comprises the whole of the will to receive (which is the heart), and the thought (which is the mind). These are the two primary elements that exist in man, and which distinguish humans from animals, from the beast. Our body is an organism that is part of the animal kingdom. However, we are distinguished from that kingdom by our desires and thoughts. For this reason, it is only our thoughts and desires that we must correct.
Our desires divide into “bodily desires” for food, reproduction, and family, and to “social desires” for money, respect, power, and knowledge. We may want many things, but basically, all our wishes fit into those seven primary wants. We want to fulfill all our wishes, both on the physical-corporeal level—food, reproduction (sex), and family—and on the social level—money, respect, power, and knowledge. All of them exist in everyone, but in different combinations in each of us.
There are other desires from our day-to-day life, which we are unaware of, such as desires between people. These desires turn outward, such as a person who gives of oneself to others, not seeking to obtain from them for oneself. These desires are the 613 desires between man and man.
When we connect to others without the aim to exploit and to gain, but truly come out of ourselves for the sake of others, we discover those 613 desires. We discover them in their egotistical form, and if we shift them into working for the sake of others, it is a correction, the performance of a Mitzva (good deed/commandment).
We perform the Mitzvot (plural of Mitzva) through the light that comes to us when we study the wisdom of Kabbalah correctly. It is called “the light in it reforms.” The wisdom of Kabbalah is called “Torah”, “The Torah of light,” “the internality of the Torah,” or “the true law (Torah),” since by studying it we draw to ourselves the light that corrects these desires between us.
Correcting the 613 desires in the relations between man and man leads one into the corrected desire. The corrected desire includes within it the 613 desires of love, bestowal, friendship, unity, connection, and mutual guarantee. This desire is called “the land of Israel,” where all the desires are Yashar El (straight to God, the Creator). They are Yashar El not only due to our approach to others, toward the friends, toward the people of Israel, but because it is a desire to bestow, the same desire as the Creator’s—a desire to do good to all.
Hence, when we reach the land of Israel, the desire straight to others, we can also live in the physical land of Israel. That, however, must be on the condition that we are connected among us in a reciprocal connection, called “the spiritual land of Israel,” a state of “all of Israel are friends.”
This is why Kabbalists such as Baal HaSulam (Rav Yehuda Ashlag) and the Rav Kook write that today we have been given an opportunity to return to the corporeal land of Israel, but we have yet to merit it, so we may achieve correction—connection—in the short time we have been given. Kabbalists explain that if we do not contemplate it and move in that direction, we will not merit staying here and will be exiled.
Why is there such a strict division into twelve tribes with a prohibition to intermarry?
Connecting means to marry. The different organs in our bodies work very differently from one another. You cannot connect the kidneys to the lungs or the liver to the heart because each organ works in its own system. It is like an engine in which one piston is working in one direction and the other is working in another. You cannot connect these opposites without the proper adjustment. It has to follow an overall plan.
Is the end result a single system?
The result is one: the people of Israel in the land of Israel.
What are the parts?
The parts are as pistons, as parts of an engine, moving in opposite directions but toward the same vector.
So is an individual person like a piston?
The individual is part of the whole. One must only actualize one’s desire in the right manner, and others, too, must actualize their desires in the right manner. If we all realize ourselves with the qualities we were born with, we will reach the end of our correction on the personal level, our personal fulfillment. In this way, we will not confuse one another.
Is this equality vs. difference?
How does one make that equalizing?
Initially, we are not equal; we are different. There is no reason to deny it. Imagine a person having a unique gift for something, such as music, and we tell him, “No, you have to be a mechanic.” Can you force a mechanic to be a physician?
How does one know one’s role?
These days we get “scattered” in every direction. This is why we are told, “Don’t marry, don’t look at others, find out for yourself where you belong.” If a person is born to a certain tribe and possesses certain qualities in the common soul called “the people of Israel,” that person must find one’s destiny and actualize it. This is when he or she will be happy.
With children, it is easy to see how each is special. Yet, this leads to competition.
There cannot be competition if one is a mechanic, another is a musician, a third is a physician, a fourth is an author, and a fifth is an engineer. The only competition that is possible is in how much each of us contributes to society.
Assume that two mechanics are born in a tribe of mechanics. One of them is smarter than the other, and can invent special machines. The smarter one should be a team leader in a big factory that develops engines, while the less astute should be working at a small garage or for a garage owner.
Why does today’s society appreciates the smarter mechanic far more than the simple one?
The problem is that our society is not uniform. We cannot appreciate people according to their relative efforts. In a family, we admire a little baby who does the silliest thing as though it were the greatest achievement. But to an uninvolved observer it would seem as nothing to cheer for.
The point is that if we treat each other with love, we feel that when one contributes to society from the bottom of the heart, that person should be appreciated far more than someone who is simply talented and to whom the contribution is effortless.
Today we have no regard for those who contribute to society, but to the rich and famous.
This is the problem. We are not actualizing the goal for which we received the land of Israel. This is why our situation is so bleak.
Is this the idol worship that the portion mentions?
Yes, it is idol worship when we admire famous people and social icons and so forth.
How can we change that? Is it not part of the human mechanism?
The only way is education that explains to people on a daily basis over a period of time, until people see the situation as it truly is and change. Today the world is pressing on us. We will not be able to keep doing as we please; we cannot isolate ourselves from the declining world.
To enter the land of Israel, idol worship must be abolished. Is this a feasible task?
Any act that does not unite the nation in equality and love, or places the concept of unity above all other values, leads to idolatry.
How can we know the borders of the desire called “the land of Israel” before we enter it?
Our desire contains within it the whole of reality. From that, we can single out all the desire that is on earth. Out of the desire that is on earth, we can single out the additional desire called “the land of Israel,” which is a very small country, if we look in the map.
It can hardly be seen.
This gives us an idea of what we correct. First, we must correct this desire. Once we correct it, we can move on to correct the general desire, the rest of the continents, and the entire world. This is the meaning of being “a light for the nations.” Here the text does not mention it, but only the entrance to the land of Israel, which must be by one’s transcending one’s egotistical desire and being ready to begin to correct one’s desires into love of others.
How does one find out the boundaries of this land?
When we work on our connections with others, we begin to see with which out of our 613 desires we can relate to others. These are the boundaries. Within us are many more desires, called “desires of the nations of the world.” These are very powerful desires, like the size of the world compared to the size of the land of Israel, but we correct them later.
These are the stages. Anyone who engages in the wisdom of Kabbalah reaches both types of desires.
In the Torah, we read about far wider borders than the dot we see on the map today. Is this something we will ever reach?
Without a doubt.
We will reach it physically, but they will not be borders anymore because we are already in the state of complete redemption. That is, borders will disappear; there will be no borders whatsoever.
Are there borders in spirituality, as well?
No, which is why all of us, the entire world, will be as “one man with one heart.” The children of Israel will be the ones to begin the correction, but later, being “a light for the nations,” they will join the entire world into the correction, as it is written, “For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations” (Isaiah 56:7). What was previously limited will become boundless.
Another issue is the cities of refuge. If a person kills someone, he can escape to a city of refuge and be protected there.
It is so when one is still not working with all of one’s desires. If a person makes a mistake or fails in something, it is not because that person is no longer worthy of being in the land of Israel, but because there are various scrutinies and problems in it, too. Clearly, a person enters the desire so it would be directly toward brotherly love, love for all. This was impossible in the desert, except through the law, “That which you hate, do not do to your friend.” When entering the land of Israel, then the law, “Love your neighbor as yourself” applies, the law of love.
Is it possible to make mistakes here?
Of course. There are new desires, new corrections, and there is the conquering of the land. In all these desires, a person needs to face up to one’s egotistical desires and truly exploit them, defeat, break, and expel them. A person needs to do the entire work that the people of Israel does in the land of Israel in the story, except here, it pertains to an internal story, concerning the desires within us, and here we could err. This is why we were given the Torah. Just as Israel repeatedly made mistakes in the desert and then corrected themselves, the same applies to the conquering of the land—we make mistakes and then correct them.
What does it mean to make mistakes if we say that there is none else besides Him?
It means we must discover these desires.
Where do I truly begin to correct?
Each time we succeed, we immediately fall into a mistake, a transgression.
Is it because we attribute the success to ourselves?
No. The mistake, the transgression, is not even ours. We are being introduced to a new, corrupted desire, where we see ourselves as sinful, like the sin of the spies, the sin of the water, the sin of the serpents, and many other sins. The people of Israel seems to never listen to what it is being told.
However, it happens only because they do succeed. They are introduced to more and more of their corrupted desires in order to correct them. We all come from the breaking, from Pharaoh. This is why Pharaoh gradually appears as cruel, broken, egotistical, and we need to correct him.
Therefore, we need not attribute our egotism to ourselves because “he who is greater than his friend, his desire is greater than him.” On the contrary, all that is revealed to us in the Torah is our own broken soul, which we correct. And it is not even we who do it; it has been done before us. The Creator is telling us, “I have created the evil inclination,” and “I have hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (Exodus 10:1).
Does obliteration relate to idol worship?
Our work is to correct. This is why we constantly reveal the evil and correct it.
But it seems endless.
It is not endless. At the end of the day, we are living in the land of Israel, and we are building in it a house of sanctity. There is already light of Hochma being filled with light of Hassadim, and it is filling our souls, so we are already beginning to discover the eternal and perfect world.
Is the land of Israel a state of “no errors,” a perfect state?
It is the perfect state. Today we need to come to a state where the land of Israel spreads throughout all the countries and all the continents. It is called “the land of the gazelle” because that desire with the aim to bestow, to love others, must eventually encompass the whole of reality.
We have the method that explains how to do it, and we must explain it to the whole of humanity. The work of disseminating the wisdom of Kabbalah is called “the Messiah’s Shofar.” It is our duty to carry it out because otherwise humanity will still achieve the complete correction, but after great torments, while in our way, humanity can achieve correction quickly, using the light that reforms.