Parashah #42 Mattot (Tribes) B’midbar (Numbers) 30:2-32:42

Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue

Parashah #42 Mattot (Masa’ei is read separately in leap years)
Haftarah: Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) 1:1-2:3
B’rit Chadashah: Mattityahu (Matthew) 5:33-37

This week we learn or are reminded that oaths, vows, and obligations invoke the name of the L-rd. The entire literary style of chapter 30 grants permission to release women in different situations from their vows by the authority of tribal heads, fathers, and husbands, under certain conditions. The spectrum includes young girls to wives, widows, and divorcees.
Vows are conditional but covenants are oaths. The result of either is the same in that one cannot go back on his/her word save the situations described in this parashah. The cliché “a man’s word is his bond” originated with this biblical principle. Today, we can no longer “assume” that those who make a vow or an oath are sincere as many people consider vows and oaths to be as disposable and easily changed as diapers. G-d has a different perspective.

Last week we discussed the destruction of Bil’am for seducing Israel away from G-d’s covenant. Chapter 31 describes G-d’s way of exacting vengeance on Bil’am and the Midyanim. Contrary to the American system of education that maintains and teaches that there is no deity and no absolutes, they do exist, and G-d will address evil in every form one way or another according to His will. Peace is always preferable, but there is a time when G-d will not honor the effort after the act. G-d will always avenge His covenants. Recall that Avraham faced five kings, including the king of S’dom (Gen.14:7-8). Now Israel faces five kings including Tzur who was Cozbi’s father and the tribal leader of Midyan. G-d directed that 12,000 men avenge Bil’am’s seduction of Israel. It is interesting that just as 12,000 men were involved in avenging Israel in this narrative, that 12,000 individuals from each tribe as they exist in the book of Revelation will be sealed to witness to Judah during the Tribulation. In the Hebrew numbering system of Gematria, the number 12 represents totality, wholeness, and the completion of G-d’s purpose. The use of Gematria goes back to approximately from 10-220 CE and has incredible accuracy when applied to G-d’s Torah. Much can be learned from examining the connection between numbers used in G-d’s Torah and Gematria.

Moshe was extremely angry that the forces allowed the women and children to live. After all, it was the women who seduced Israel. Just as it is necessary to rid the body of as many cancer cells as possible, the cancer of idolatry and seduction must be eradicated among the people. Accordingly, Moshe ordered the death of every male child and every woman of child- bearing age. Even this act of mercy is questionable. However, the young women are taken into the homes and rules are established for decontamination through immersion and separation from the camp for 7 days (Num. 31:19), and everything that can withstand fire must be put through the fire and then purified with water which symbolizes conversion (Num.31:22-23).That which cannot go through the fire must be purified with water. The women going through the immersion signified conversion. We can easily see the connection between this process of fire and water for purification to scriptures in writings of the Prophets and in the B’rit Chadashah including 1 Peter 1:7; Zech. 13:9; Isaiah 48:10; Malachi 3:3;Job 23:10; Proverbs 17:3; Psalm 66:10; Malachi 3:1-18: Peter 5:10;1:6; Rev. 3:18;Jer.9:7;1 Peter:12-13; 1 Cor 3:13; Rom. 8:28; Matt 3:10-11; Dan.11:35 as a few examples. There are other examples that allude to the concept of removing leaven from bread to make a new lump that is not contaminated: 1 Cor. 5:6-8; Gal. 5:9; Matt. 16:11-12. Similarly, we must examine ourselves frequently and search out the leaven “sin” in our lives and remove it (1 Cor. 5:6-8).

Adonai set up a system of tithing to the Kohanim with some of the spoils and captives split between the soldiers and the community; and the L’vi’im. The people followed Adonai’s commands as spoken by Moshe. The obedience of this generation was rewarded with the miracle of having all 12,000 soldiers return safely! It is wonderful to see how G-d intervenes on our behalf in this world, but we cannot even begin to imagine how He will reward those who follow His Torah in the olam ha ba (the world to come).

Haftarah: Jeremiah 1:1-2:3
The haftarot for the next 12 weeks relate to calendar days according to Raban (Yochanan ben Zakai). Raban was a first century Palestinian Jewish sage who ruled that with the destruction of the Temple, G-d could be worshipped through prayer rather than sacrifice. He also reinterpreted the waving of the lulav and the sounding of the shofar at Rosh Hashanah so these things could be done without the Temple). Raban is responsible for many of the traditional Jewish customs and traditions followed today.

Tradition attributes the apostasy of the golden calf to the 17th of Tammuz which is the same day the Romans breached the outer walls of the Temple. Then there are 21 days to the 9th of Av, the day both Temples were destroyed. During these three weeks, the Haftarot of Affliction warn of certain doom. In our Haftarah this week, Jeremiah warns of impending catastrophe (Jer. 1:10). It is a sad commentary to read as Adonai speaks to Jeremiah about how He is going to pronounce His judgments against the Israelites for their “wickedness in abandoning me, offering incense to other gods and worshipping what their own hands made.” This narrative is a poignant reminder of our past as a chosen people and what those who call themselves “Jews” are doing today. Never mind what the secular society is doing! Various sects of Judaism excluding observant Messianic Jews, have fallen away from G-d in some form or another. Examples are numerous; virtual selling of chametz before Pesach, eating pork and denying Yahshua as YHVH, holding to the Oral Torah (shebe’al peh) as being equal to or even above G-d’s Torah (shebiktav), hiring a Shabbos Goy to violate rabbinic Jewish tradition that has become law, and numerous other customs/traditions that are inconsistent with G-d’s Torah. Just as Jeremiah stood boldly before Jerusalem and declared the words of Adonai, so must any true believer do the same if we are to be found good and faithful servants when we stand before our Messiah.

B’rit Chadashah Matthew 5:33-37

Yahshua takes the laws described in our Parashah to the spiritual level. Of course, He did not change them as He is G-d. However, He taught those who have ears to hear that following the letter of the law is not enough to be considered one who loves Him. The spirit of the law must drive the action. The examples of divorce and making oaths and vows are specific but must be examined carefully in the Hebrew language. The subject of divorce is debated extensively, especially using the English interpretation of fornication and adultery. For example, fornication includes apostasy, abuse, and abandonment. The scope of this subject is too extensive for the lesson today but is worthy of personal investigation and study.
Rather than telling someone something like “I will be there come hell or high water,” it more correct to say something like “if G-d wills/permits, I will be there.” In this way, we are not making an oath or a vow, but leaving our ability to fulfill what we hope to accomplish to G-d’s benevolence.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Tamah-Davis-Hart