Thursday, July 8, 2010

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshios Matos Masei

The following is a brief summary of two thoughts said over by R' Frand on the parshios. I have attempted to reproduce these vorts to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

Parsha Matos begins with Moshe telling the heads of the tribes about nedarim. This is out of the ordinary as a parsha usually begins "and Hashem told Moshe to say [to the Jews]." However in this parsha Moshe speaks directly to the roshei matos without the Torah specifying that the source was from Hashem. The language of roshei hamatos is also unique as the Torah usually describes the people as nesi'im, not as roshei hamatos.

Rabbi Frand quoted R' Alpert who cited the Rashbam in Chukas about the maa'aseh meriva. In this parsha, Moshe is told to pick up the mateh and then later told to talk to the rock. Ultimately, Moshe is punished for using the staff, rather than speaking to the rock. But why is he told to pick up the staff in the first place? The answer Rabbi Frand gave is that Hashem was trying to teach Moshe a lesson about how to interact with the Jewish people. Hashem instructs - there are two ways to interact and influence the Jews, either by speaking to them or by hitting them. This time, the lesson is that the pen (or in this case the spoken word) is mightier than the sword.

When Hashem tells Moshe to take the staff, Hashem is saying take the staff, but then go and talk to the Jews. Hashem attempts to teach Moshe a lesson that every leader and Rebbi or Rov must know - you don't need the stick. You can have as much impact by speaking.

Matos is a parsha about speech - nedarim. A person can have a Rabbinically certified kosher meat sandwich, but if he has sworn that that he will not eat meat, then it is as great a sin to eat the sandwich as if he has eaten not kosher food. This is the power of speech. Therefore the parsha begins with Moshe telling the roshei hamatos, because Moshe has learned the power of speech and he can then instruct the leaders of sticks that they can lead with power or with speech, but leading with speech is much more effective.

A second vort was said over about Parshas Masei. R' Frand again quoted R' Alpert who remarks that the parsha recites the 42 stops which appear to be ancient history and almost irrelevant. So why are the mas'aos mentioned? Indeed, many of the locations mentioned were mile markers where things did not go well for the Jews. Chazal teach that Refidim marked the location where the Jews washed their hands of Torah (rafu yideihem) and therefore they were attacked by Amalek. Another location was Kivros HaTavah where they complained about the food they were eating.

R' Frand asked - how do people look back on their less than stellar past? They usually try to forget it. The Torah however tells us, remember your past that you did not act properly, but you were able to pull yourselves out of it and move on. The Torah then teaches 42 locations to show that there were glorious moments and not so stellar times. The message is that the Jews should be aware of their mistakes, not repeat them and at the same time see how they overcame them.

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