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Commentary - Year 3 Sabbath 18

Numbers 30:1 - 31:54  -   Jeremiah 4:2   -   Psalm 116   -   Matthew 5:33-48
 

Av 4, 5763 / Aug  2, 2003

Av 4, 5766 / July 29, 2006 

Av 4, 5769 / July 25, 2009

Av 2, 5772 / July 21, 2012

Av 2, 5775 / July 18, 2015

 

Mattot / The Tribes   SCRIPTURES should be read first

Numbers 30

Vows and oaths

There are two categories of neder – vow: one may prohibit himself from doing something allowed by Torah, such as traveling to another city for a certain period of time; or one may obligate himself to perform something optional in Torah, such as a contribution to a certain charity. One cannot use a neder to bind himself to perform an act, excepting a voluntary Torah command: one cannot use a neder to require himself to go to sleep at a certain time.

There is a distinction between a neder – vow and a shevoah – oath. An oath may either require or prohibit the performance of an act, including acts unrelated to voluntary Torah commands. A vow changes the status of an object, while an oath does not. If one makes a vow to refrain from eating figs, then figs gain the status of forbidden food. If one swears with an oath to eat figs, then the person becomes obligated, but there is no change of status of the fig, since any number of figs may be left.

The vow has the unusual quality of being a halachic requirement created by oneself, rather than by God. The vow is enforceable by the courts.

Revocation (hafarah) and annulment (hatarah)

(V.6) A father or husband cannot retroactively revoke a vow or oath that his daughter or wife has already broken – before he hears of it; she is liable to punishment. (V.14) A husband’s authority to revoke is limited to vows or oaths that would cause the wife personal affliction, or affect the marital relationship. (V.15) A father or husband has only until the end of the day, in which he hears of the vow, to revoke it. (V.16) If a husband’s time to revoke has elapsed, but he misleads his wife into thinking that he revoked it within due time, then the husband is subject to the penalty for breaking the vow.

According to Talmudic rulings, a court may annul a vow or oath, even after it is broken, if it determines that there are reasons such as error or ignorance. Otherwise, a court may mete out a penalty of lashes.

Jeremiah 4:2

The haftarah portion refers to swearing “in truth, in justice, and in righteousness.”

Psalm 116

Today’s Psalm reads (v.14), “I shall pay my vows to Yahweh, oh may it be in the presence of all His people.”

Matthew 5:33-37

Matthew 5:33-37

Now for Yeshua’s words: “You have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not make false oaths, but shall fulfill your oaths to Yahweh.' But I say to you, make no vain oath, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes' or 'No, no'; and anything beyond these is of the evil one.”

 

The Hebrew of Yeshua’s statement in v.34 translates “satisfy no one’s interest by oath.” This refers to vain oaths, in contrast to serious oaths to God.

The Torah portion requires honesty, and Yeshua stresses that we should make no oath that we have not the power to keep. And our honesty level should be such that “Yes” means yes and “No” means no.

Firstly, we should not engage in insincere speech as is common in the world. We should not make up stories just for conversation. We should not lie though it might seem to be for our benefit. We should be serious in our statements. This does not mean that we can’t tell jokes, or fictional stories, when that is understood as our intent. Paul says (Colossians 3:9), “Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices”.

Secondly, we must be careful to be accurate in our statements. Whether we are speaking of God’s Word, or speaking about other people, or just in casual conversation, we must learn to take care to be accurate. We should not exaggerate, or make claims of which we are uncertain.

“The Lord showed me” is a common introduction to a statement that cannot be otherwise defended: it can be not only dishonest, but also a vain show of spirituality, and a vain use of God’s name.

Thirdly, when we say that we will do something – whether in a business transaction (such as signing a credit slip) or in casual conversation, we must take care to fulfill our obligation fully and timely. These are areas where people often agree to things far beyond their ability to control.

In situations where most of us use credit, such as for housing and vehicles, there are laws and rules: we often must have insurance to cover the creditor in case we lose our asset and default. So, we see that, even in our nation’s laws, there is recognition of our inability to perform what we say, and we may be required to post a guarantee – if the creditor can’t take our asset, the insurer pays: thus our “Yes” is backed up by an ability to perform.

We must know when to say “Yes” and when to say “No”. We should not let social pressure sway us to say “Yes” to smoking or use of strong drink or drugs. We should not let personal feelings entice us into saying “Yes” to wrong relationships. We should not be gullible to pressure sales tactics in making purchases.

We need to learn when to say “Yes”, and when to say “No”. This means being honest about relating what we have seen in the past, and being careful about what we agree to do in the future.

Numbers 31

Now we see the retribution Yahweh commanded against the Midianites (Numbers 25:16-18): “Then Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Be hostile to the Midianites and strike them; for they have been hostile to you with their tricks, with which they have deceived you in the affair of Peor, and in the affair of Cozbi, the daughter of the leader of Midian, their sister who was slain on the day of the plague because of Peor.’ ” This is the battle wherein the sorcerer Balaam is slain (v.8): he is the one whose donkey talked to him, and he is the one who counseled the Midianites to tempt Israel with immorality.

(V.3) Moses proceeded without delay to send the soldiers to battle, even though God had told him that he would die after this war.

(V.13-18) Moses rebuked the officers for sparing the Midianite women who had enticed the Israeli men with immorality.

The latter portion of the chapter deals with laws of purification for those involved with war-slayings.

Matthew 5:43-47

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

This follows Yeshua’s explanation of  “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”: the intent was never personal retribution, but rules for judges to make equitable judgments.

Yahweh commanded the Israelites to slay the Midianites – them specifically. By seeking to destroy Israel, they had become the enemies of God, and Israel was commanded to execute God’s judgment. There was no command here for individuals to hate their individual enemies.

Yeshua was not abolishing Torah.

Readings:

"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Who chose us from among all peoples by giving us Your Torah.

Blessed are You, Yahweh, giver of the Torah."

 

Reader 1*  Amen. 1 Then Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the sons of Israel, saying, "This is the word which Yahweh has commanded. 2 "If a man makes a vow to Yahweh, or takes an oath to bind himself with a binding obligation, he shall not violate his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.

3 "Also if a woman makes a vow to Yahweh, and binds herself by an obligation in her father's house in her youth, 4 and her father hears her vow and her obligation by which she has bound herself, and her father says nothing to her, then all her vows shall stand and every obligation by which she has bound herself shall stand. 5 "But if her father should forbid her on the day he hears of it, none of her vows or her obligations by which she has bound herself shall stand; and Yahweh will forgive her because her father had forbidden her. 6 "However, if she should marry while under her vows or the rash statement of her lips by which she has bound herself, 7 and her husband hears of it and says nothing to her on the day he hears it, then her vows shall stand and her obligations by which she has bound herself shall stand. 8 "But if on the day her husband hears of it, he forbids her, then he shall annul her vow which she is under and the rash statement of her lips by which she has bound herself; and Yahweh will forgive her.

Reader 2*  Amen. 9 "But the vow of a widow or of a divorced woman, everything by which she has bound herself, shall stand against her. 10 "However, if she vowed in her husband's house, or bound herself by an obligation with an oath, 11 and her husband heard it, but said nothing to her and did not forbid her, then all her vows shall stand and every obligation by which she bound herself shall stand. 12 "But if her husband indeed annuls them on the day he hears them, then whatever proceeds out of her lips concerning her vows or concerning the obligation of herself shall not stand; her husband has annulled them, and Yahweh will forgive her. 13 "Every vow and every binding oath to humble herself, her husband may confirm it or her husband may annul it. 14 "But if her husband indeed says nothing to her from day to day, then he confirms all her vows or all her obligations which are on her; he has confirmed them, because he said nothing to her on the day he heard them. 15 "But if he indeed annuls them after he has heard them, then he shall bear her guilt." 16 These are the statutes which Yahweh commanded Moses, as between a man and his wife, and as between a father and his daughter, while she is in her youth in her father's house.

Reader 3*  Amen. 31:1 Then Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, 2 "Take full vengeance for the sons of Israel on the Midianites; afterward you will be gathered to your people." 3 Moses spoke to the people, saying, "Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Midian to execute Yahweh's vengeance on Midian. 4 "A thousand from each tribe of all the tribes of Israel you shall send to the war." 5 So there were furnished from the thousands of Israel, a thousand from each tribe, twelve thousand armed for war. 6 Moses sent them, a thousand from each tribe, to the war, and Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, to the war with them, and the holy vessels and the trumpets for the alarm in his hand.

Reader 4*  Amen. 7 So they made war against Midian, just as Yahweh had commanded Moses, and they killed every male. 8 They killed the kings of Midian along with the rest of their slain: Evi and Rekem and Zur and Hur and Reba, the five kings of Midian; they also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword. 9 The sons of Israel captured the women of Midian and their little ones; and all their cattle and all their flocks and all their goods they plundered. 10 Then they burned all their cities where they lived and all their camps with fire. 11 They took all the spoil and all the prey, both of man and of beast. 12 They brought the captives and the prey and the spoil to Moses, and to Eleazar the priest and to the congregation of the sons of Israel, to the camp at the plains of Moab, which are by the Jordan opposite Jericho. 13 Moses and Eleazar the priest and all the leaders of the congregation went out to meet them outside the camp. 14 Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the captains of thousands and the captains of hundreds, who had come from service in the war. 15 And Moses said to them, "Have you spared all the women? 16 "Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against Yahweh in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of Yahweh. 17 "Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately. 18 "But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves.

Reader 5*  Amen. 19 "And you, camp outside the camp seven days; whoever has killed any person and whoever has touched any slain, purify yourselves, you and your captives, on the third day and on the seventh day. 20 "You shall purify for yourselves every garment and every article of leather and all the work of goats' hair, and all articles of wood." 21 Then Eleazar the priest said to the men of war who had gone to battle, "This is the statute of the law which Yahweh has commanded Moses: 22 only the gold and the silver, the bronze, the iron, the tin and the lead, 23 everything that can stand the fire, you shall pass through the fire, and it shall be clean, but it shall be purified with water for impurity. But whatever cannot stand the fire you shall pass through the water. 24 "And you shall wash your clothes on the seventh day and be clean, and afterward you may enter the camp."

Reader 6*  Amen. 25 Then Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, 26 "You and Eleazar the priest and the heads of the fathers' households of the congregation take a count of the booty that was captured, both of man and of animal; 27 and divide the booty between the warriors who went out to battle and all the congregation. 28 "Levy a tax for Yahweh from the men of war who went out to battle, one in five hundred of the persons and of the cattle and of the donkeys and of the sheep; 29 take it from their half and give it to Eleazar the priest, as an offering to Yahweh. 30 "From the sons of Israel's half, you shall take one drawn out of every fifty of the persons, of the cattle, of the donkeys and of the sheep, from all the animals, and give them to the Levites who keep charge of the tabernacle of Yahweh." 31 Moses and Eleazar the priest did just as Yahweh had commanded Moses. 32 Now the booty that remained from the spoil which the men of war had plundered was 675,000 sheep, 33 and 72,000 cattle, 34 and 61,000 donkeys, 35 and of human beings, of the women who had not known man intimately, all the persons were 32,000. 36 The half, the portion of those who went out to war, was as follows: the number of sheep was 337,500, 37 and Yahweh's levy of the sheep was 675; 38 and the cattle were 36,000, from which Yahweh'S levy was 72; 39 and the donkeys were 30,500, from which Yahweh'S levy was 61; 40 and the human beings were 16,000, from whom Yahweh's levy was 32 persons.

Reader 7*  Amen. 41 Moses gave the levy which was Yahweh's offering to Eleazar the priest, just as Yahweh had commanded Moses. 42 As for the sons of Israel's half, which Moses separated from the men who had gone to war-- 43 now the congregation's half was 337,500 sheep, 44 and 36,000 cattle, 45 and 30,500 donkeys, 46 and the human beings were 16,000-- 47 and from the sons of Israel's half, Moses took one drawn out of every fifty, both of man and of animals, and gave them to the Levites, who kept charge of the tabernacle of Yahweh, just as Yahweh had commanded Moses. 48 Then the officers who were over the thousands of the army, the captains of thousands and the captains of hundreds, approached Moses, 49 and they said to Moses, "Your servants have taken a census of men of war who are in our charge, and no man of us is missing. 50 "So we have brought as an offering to Yahweh what each man found, articles of gold, armlets and bracelets, signet rings, earrings and necklaces, to make atonement for ourselves before Yahweh." 51 Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold from them, all kinds of wrought articles. 52 All the gold of the offering which they offered up to Yahweh, from the captains of thousands and the captains of hundreds, was 16,750 shekels. 53 The men of war had taken booty, every man for himself. 54 So Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold from the captains of thousands and of hundreds, and brought it to the tent of meeting as a memorial for the sons of Israel before Yahweh.

 

"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Who in giving us Yeshua, the Living Torah, has planted everlasting life in our midst.

Blessed are You, Yahweh, giver of the Torah."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Who selected good prophets, delighting in their words which were spoken truthfully.

Blessed are You, Yahweh, Who chose the Torah, Your servant Moses, Your people Israel,

and the prophets of truth and righteousness."

 

Jeremiah 4:1-2

1 "If you will return, O Israel," declares Yahweh, "Then you should return to Me. And if you will put away your detested things from My presence, and will not waver, 2 and you will swear, 'As Yahweh lives,' in truth, in justice and in righteousness; then the nations will bless themselves in Him, and in Him they will glory."

 

Psalm 116

1 I love Yahweh, because He hears My voice and my supplications. 2 Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live. 3 The cords of death encompassed me and the terrors of Sheol came upon me; I found distress and sorrow. 4 Then I called upon the name of Yahweh: "O Yahweh, I beseech You, save my life!" 5 Gracious is Yahweh, and righteous; yes, our God is compassionate. 6 Yahweh preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me. 7 Return to your rest, O my soul, for Yahweh has dealt bountifully with you. 8 For You have rescued my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. 9 I shall walk before Yahweh in the land of the living. 10 I believed when I said, "I am greatly afflicted." 11 I said in my alarm, "All men are liars." 12 What shall I render to Yahweh for all His benefits toward me? 13 I shall lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of Yahweh. 14 I shall pay my vows to Yahweh, Oh may it be in the presence of all His people. 15 Precious in the sight of Yahweh is the death of His godly ones. 16 O Yahweh, surely I am Your servant, I am Your servant, the son of Your handmaid, You have loosed my bonds. 17 To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and call upon the name of Yahweh. 18 I shall pay my vows to Yahweh, Oh may it be in the presence of all His people, 19 in the courts of Yahweh's house, in the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Praise Yahweh!

 

Matthew 5:33-48

33 "Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to Yahweh. ' 34 "But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the City of the Great King. 36 "Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 "But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes ' or 'No, no'; anything beyond these is of evil.

 38 "You have heard that it was said, 'an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' 39 "But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 "If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41 "Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 "Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

 43 "You have heard that it was said, 'you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 "If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

 

"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Rock of Ages, righteous throughout all generations.

You are the faithful God, promising and then performing, speaking and then fulfilling,

for all Your words are true and righteous.

Faithful are You, Yahweh our God, and faithful are Your words,

for no word of Yours shall remain unfulfilled;

You are a faithful and merciful God and King.

Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, Who are faithful in fulfilling all Your words.


© 2003  Beikvot HaMashiach
(Followers of the Messiah)