MATOT - STANTING UNITED AND STRONG
By Rabbi Yonassan Biggs
Shalom and Bracha!
This Shabbat we read the portion of Matot which begins with the laws of vows. Each portion of the week bears a special connection to the time of year in which it is read. Matot is always read during the three weeks in which we mourn the destruction of the Temple and intensify our prayers for the Redemption. As we enter the three weeks, it is very important to fulfill all of our promises to give charity and fulfill other Mitzvot. When we fulfill our promises, Hashem will fulfill His promise to rebuild the Temple. Furthermore, as these weeks are a time when we need extra Divine protection and the situation in Israel and throughout the world needs extra Divine protection, it is wise to fulfill our promises and vows.
The portion continues with the war against the nation of Midian. Although Midian was not among the lands that comprised the land of Israel, the nation of Midian schemed to arouse Hashem’s anger against the Jewish people and succeeded in causing a plague. Hashem commanded that each of the tribes send an equal number of soldiers to fight Midian. The war was a miraculous one, and none of the Jewish soldiers were killed.
All of the battles of the Jewish people that are described in the Torah represent spiritual battles which each of us must fight. The word Midian in Hebrew is related to the Hebrew word Madon, which means strife. Midian represents the negative force of strife that is fueled by jealousy. When someone succeeds, we should be happy for them. Ahavat Yisrael demands that we rejoice in our fellow Jew’s success just as we rejoice in our own. Unfortunately, our jealous nature results in just the opposite. The battle against Midian is the battle against strife. Hashem commanded that an equal number of soldiers be sent from each tribe. This is because we must all unite equally to fight divisiveness and attain unity. If one feels I am the one who brings unity, and you do less to bring unity, it only enhances the problem. The destruction of the Temple was because of strife. Therefore, in the three weeks we read about the war against Midian, reminding us to stress unity and Ahavat Yisrael.
Two important Mitzvot are learned from the spoils of Midian: The Koshering of utensil used for non Kosher food and the immersions of utensils in the Mikveh. This has a special relevance in these three weeks: to protect ourselves from increased darkness we have to avoid things which have connections to evil and to prepare ourselves for the coming of Moshiach we have to elevate our surroundings and homes to a higher level of purity: our very dishes have to be holy.
The word Matot means tribes. It is noteworthy that the Torah varies from the word Shevatim, the regular word for tribes, and uses the word Matot. Aside from meaning tribe, a Shevet is a branch and a Mateh is a staff. A branch is connected to the tree, where as a staff is cut off from the tree. These three weeks we experience ourselves cut off from the Temple and Yerushalayim, our source of life. A branch bends, whereas a staff is hard. In exile we must exhibit extra strength and fortitude, not bending an inch from the path of Torah. The word Mateh also comes from the word turn. These are days of Teshuvah, when we can change ourselves for the better and thereby change these days from sadness to joy. Moshe redeemed the Jewish people with a Mateh. May we merit the coming redemption in this week of Parshat Matot!
My website http://www.chabadgn.com/holidays/3weeks/ has a wealth of information on the Three Weeks as well as excellent classes about the Temple
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Dedicated in fond memory of my father in law, Matisyahu Ben Yehudah Horetzky of blessed memory on the occasion of his Yahrtzeit
. May his soul rise from strength to strength