Parshas Mattos Maasei 5757

Parshas Mattos

"If a person will make a vow to Hashem or an oath to obligate himself in some thing, he must not break his word. He must fulfill that which he had vowed or sworn to do." (Num. 30:3)

Chazal taught that when a person makes an agreement to rent a house or property for an unspecified amount of time, it is understood to be a 30 day obligation. To vow (Yedor Neder) means to take upon oneself to do or not to do a certain thing.

The Hebrew word for vow, "Neder", says R' Elimelech of Lizhensk in his sefer "Noam Elimelech", is related to the word "dira", a dwelling. To make a vow, to "Yedor Neder" therefore can be interpreted to mean "to create a dwelling place."

It is written that every Jew has a a chelek elokhai mima'al. He has a soul which is descended from the source of all Holiness and is intrinsically G-dly. To "Yedor Neder" means to prepare a dwelling place for this G-dly soul in the upper worlds. How is it done?

This is hinted at by the idea of renting a dwelling which is for 30 days. When a person wants to prepare a dwelling place for his G-dly soul, he must prepare himself with Torah and Teshuva for 30 days.

For this reason, states the Noam Elimelech, there is a custom brought from Chazal to fast on the day before Rosh Chodesh, the new Jewish month (and the advent of the new moon). This is the inauguration of the 30 day period of preparation in which he will rededicate himself to the service of Hashem.

(Note:) Not everybody maintains this practice of fasting. It is common however to accept upon oneself a Ta'anis Dibbur, a Fast of Speech, or to recite the Book of Psalms. Each person finds his way to prepare.

Parshas Ma'asei

"These are the stations of the journeys of the Children of Israel, the ones who went out of Eygpt under the leadership of Moshe and Aaron. Moshe recorded the stations of their journeys along the way according to Hashem; these are their journeys between the stations." (Num. 33:1-2)

The Torah goes out of its way here to enumerate all of the 42 different stops that Klal Yisrael made during their 40 year desert trek.

The Ohr HaChayim HaKodesh based on the Zohar explains that the purpose of these journeys was to weaken the power of those forces in the world which oppose and and try to purge the world of Holiness. Furthermore, at each station Yisrael had specific spiritual improvments to make until they would become refined and prepared to enter into the Land. In each place ,lost sparks of Kedushah (holiness) were gathered up and returned to their source. That is why in some places they camped for a year and in others for only 12 hours. They stayed in each station according to the work to be done.

Each station along the way represented a special quality or aspect of the Yetzer Hara that had to be conquered. As it says, Torah scholars have no rest. Not in this world nor in the next world (Brachos 64a) since they are constantly growing, attaining one level after another.

The Sfas Emes writes something remarkable. These 42 stations together with the 8 stations that they backtracked on after the death of Aaron HaCohen (Num 26:13, and Rashi's commentary there) make a total of 50 desert stations. This corresponds to the 50 gates of understanding which are the opposite of the 50 gates of impurity into which the Children of Israel nearly sunk in Egypt. When they came out of Egypt they went up 49 levels during the 49 days of preparation which preceeded the giving of the Torah. Shavuos, the day of the giving of the Torah, was the 50th day. These 50 journeys represent an attainment of perfection similar to that which they attained at Mt. Sinai. Now they can approach Eretz Yisrael. (I think that it is for us like light at the end of the tunnel after the troublesome experiences in the desert which we read in the Book of Numbers.)

Rabbenu Bachaye in his commentary on the Torah says that besides shedding light on what happened in the desert on the journeys, the account of the journeys and their stations has for us an additional benefit in that it gives us a glimpse into the future.

Paraphrasing an idea which is brought by the Ramban in his argument with Pablo Christiani and based on a little known Midrashic work, he says that the words of all the prophets allude to the fact that the final redemption of the Jewish people will be identical to the first one. Just as the Jewish people went out of Egypt into the desert, so in the future will Yisrael take to the desert.

They will travel to the same stations that Yisrael travelled to after the Exodus. Hashem will sustain them and lead them as before. The final remaining sparks will be gathered up, the final healings completed and the redemption realized. The whole world will know that Hashem is Echad.

This is alluded to in the verse which twice mentions the word "mozta'eihem", their stations. First it is written, "Moshe recorded the stations of their journeys...". Then the verse says afterwards, " ...these are their journeys between the stations." The first mention of "mozta'eihem", their stations, refers to the going out of Egypt, the second mention to the going out of this, the last of the bitter Exiles.

Since the Parsha begins by saying "Eleh" these are the journeys of the Children of Israel, is concludes by saying "V'Eleh" and these are the journeys. Eleh comes to limit the scope of a subject -- these are the journeys that were. V'Eleh" comes to add on to what we already know, it refers to the journeys that will be, the journeys that await us at the end of our Exile, may it speedily come upon us.

See the story Tzaddik Talk which goes along with this Parsha

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