Parshat ha Shavuah Verses – Matot-Masei / מטות־מסעי

This Shabbat we read the two last Torah portions of the book “Bamidbar / Numbers”. And here’s how they start:



ב  וַיְדַבֵּר מֹשֶׁה אֶל-רָאשֵׁי הַמַּטּוֹת, לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר:  זֶה הַדָּבָר, אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה.

2 And Moses spoke unto the heads of the tribes of the children of Israel, saying: This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded.

ג  אִישׁ כִּי-יִדֹּר נֶדֶר לַיהוָה, אוֹ-הִשָּׁבַע שְׁבֻעָה לֶאְסֹר אִסָּר עַל-נַפְשׁוֹ–לֹא יַחֵל, דְּבָרוֹ:  כְּכָל-הַיֹּצֵא מִפִּיו, יַעֲשֶׂה.

3 When a man voweth a vow unto the LORD, or sweareth an oath to bind his soul with a bond, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.

ד  וְאִשָּׁה, כִּי-תִדֹּר נֶדֶר לַיהוָה, וְאָסְרָה אִסָּר בְּבֵית אָבִיהָ, בִּנְעֻרֶיהָ.

4 Also when a woman voweth a vow unto the LORD, and bindeth herself by a bond, being in her father’s house, in her youth,

ה  וְשָׁמַע אָבִיהָ אֶת-נִדְרָהּ, וֶאֱסָרָהּ אֲשֶׁר אָסְרָה עַל-נַפְשָׁהּ, וְהֶחֱרִישׁ לָהּ, אָבִיהָ–וְקָמוּ, כָּל-נְדָרֶיהָ, וְכָל-אִסָּר אֲשֶׁר-אָסְרָה עַל-נַפְשָׁהּ, יָקוּם.

5 and her father heareth her vow, or her bond wherewith she hath bound her soul, and her father holdeth his peace at her, then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she hath bound her soul shall stand.

ו  וְאִם-הֵנִיא אָבִיהָ אֹתָהּ, בְּיוֹם שָׁמְעוֹ–כָּל-נְדָרֶיהָ וֶאֱסָרֶיהָ אֲשֶׁר-אָסְרָה עַל-נַפְשָׁהּ, לֹא יָקוּם; וַיהוָה, יִסְלַח-לָהּ, כִּי-הֵנִיא אָבִיהָ, אֹתָהּ.

6 But if her father disallow her in the day that he heareth, none of her vows, or of her bonds wherewith she hath bound her soul, shall stand; and the LORD will forgive her, because her father disallowed her.

ז  וְאִם-הָיוֹ תִהְיֶה לְאִישׁ, וּנְדָרֶיהָ עָלֶיהָ, אוֹ מִבְטָא שְׂפָתֶיהָ, אֲשֶׁר אָסְרָה עַל-נַפְשָׁהּ.

7 And if she be married to a husband, while her vows are upon her, or the clear utterance of her lips, wherewith she hath bound her soul;

ח  וְשָׁמַע אִישָׁהּ בְּיוֹם שָׁמְעוֹ, וְהֶחֱרִישׁ לָהּ:  וְקָמוּ נְדָרֶיהָ, וֶאֱסָרֶהָ אֲשֶׁר-אָסְרָה עַל-נַפְשָׁהּ–יָקֻמוּ.

8 and her husband hear it, whatsoever day it be that he heareth it, and hold his peace at her; then her vows shall stand, and her bonds wherewith she hath bound her soul shall stand.

ט  וְאִם בְּיוֹם שְׁמֹעַ אִישָׁהּ, יָנִיא אוֹתָהּ, וְהֵפֵר אֶת-נִדְרָהּ אֲשֶׁר עָלֶיהָ, וְאֵת מִבְטָא שְׂפָתֶיהָ אֲשֶׁר אָסְרָה עַל-נַפְשָׁהּ–וַיהוָה, יִסְלַח-לָהּ.

9 But if her husband disallow her in the day that he heareth it, then he shall make void her vow which is upon her, and the clear utterance of her lips, wherewith she hath bound her soul; and the LORD will forgive her.

י  וְנֵדֶר אַלְמָנָה, וּגְרוּשָׁה–כֹּל אֲשֶׁר-אָסְרָה עַל-נַפְשָׁהּ, יָקוּם עָלֶיהָ.

10 But the vow of a widow, or of her that is divorced, even every thing wherewith she hath bound her soul, shall stand against her.

So, my word doesn’t count?!

How come it counts when I feed you?

When I give birth to your children?

It also counts when I am alone, lost and in pain

Is this justice?

At the first glance, that’s right – no justice for women here. On the other hand, a woman at that time was always considered sort of a property of a man, surely, not only among the Jews.

Being a widow for many years taught me that my word has to stand in any possible situation. Your word is your responsibility, and if you are lucky enough to shed at least some of this to your husband, that is not so bad after all.


The second Parshah, Masei, gives us a full recount of the wanderings in the desert:


א  אֵלֶּה מַסְעֵי בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֲשֶׁר יָצְאוּ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם–לְצִבְאֹתָם:  בְּיַד-מֹשֶׁה, וְאַהֲרֹן.

1 These are the stages of the children of Israel, by which they went forth out of the land of Egypt by their hosts under the hand of Moses and Aaron.

ב  וַיִּכְתֹּב מֹשֶׁה אֶת-מוֹצָאֵיהֶם, לְמַסְעֵיהֶם–עַל-פִּי יְהוָה; וְאֵלֶּה מַסְעֵיהֶם, לְמוֹצָאֵיהֶם.

2 And Moses wrote their goings forth, stage by stage, by the commandment of the LORD; and these are their stages at their goings forth.

It is traditional to read the “journeys” section in this week’s Parasha in an upbeat tune. For immediately after the long list of brief stops on the painful journey, at the conclusion of all that travel, in the “plains of Moab” God says to Moses, “Speak unto the Children of Israel, and say unto them: when ye pass over the Jordan into the land of Canaan… ye shall drive out the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein; for unto you have I given the land to possess it… and ye shall inherit the land by lots according to your families…” (Numbers 33:51-54)


R.Shai Held says in his commentary: “Numbers 33 lists forty-two places, some of them seemingly eminently forgettable, to teach a subtle but critical lesson: We can know God, and serve God, at every stop along our way.” Being present in every moment of your journey counts. Thinking about your every step counts.

When we think about our personal journeys, do we stop and think of how did we get here? To our particular place of work? To the stage of life, we are in? What did we learn from our journeys?

May we merit to stop and think about it this Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom!


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