Shabbat we read the portion of Matot and bless the month of Menachem Av.
The portion 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, it is wise to
fulfill our promises and vows.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Shalom and Chodesh Tov,
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