Mattot-Mase’ei (Numbers 30:2 – 36:13)

This week, we reach the end of the book of Numbers via a double portion, Mattot-Mase’ei.  Mattot (Numbers 30:2-32:42) is made up of three parts, about a chapter each.  The first recites laws concerning vows.  For men, this takes up a single verse (30:3).  The laws for women, i.e., the circumstances under which the vows of a woman can be annulled by her husband or father, make up the rest of the chapter (14 verses). Next, the Lord tells Moses to wage war against the Midianites, avenging what happened at Ba’al Peor (see Num. 25:1-9), after which Moses will die.  This war is particularly disturbing to us, first, because everyone is slaughtered except young virginal women, and second, even though it is a divinely ordered war with a connotation of purification, the Israelites profit greatly – lots of livestock, gold, and young virginal women; contrast this with the instructions for the war against the Amalekites in Samuel 15:3.  Then the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh ask permission to not cross the Jordan into the Promised Land, but instead to take advantage of the good cattle country where they are.  Can you imagine how Moses feels at their tossing away an opportunity he so longs for and can’t have?  Nevertheless, he agrees, as long as they will serve as shock troops in the assault on Canaan. [“Shock troops” are infantry who lead the assault, loosely translated from the German Stoßtrupp ( ); in Napoleonic times, such troops were referred to as the “forlorn hope,” as fans of Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe books will recognize.  But I digress.]

Mattot deals first with laws for the long term, then vengeance for a past event, and finally plans for the very near future.  Mase’ei also deals with the past, the near-term future and the long-term, but in correct temporal order.  The Israelites are first treated to a history lesson, a recap of their itinerary for the last 40 years; 14 pairs of verses in Chapter 33 chanted to the melody of the Song at the Red Sea. Why the itinerary? There are, naturally, several interpretations.  In one parable ( see, e.g., ), a king takes his ill son away to be cured and one their way home points out every step of their long journey, recalling all the sites of pain, now from a perspective of health.  In another, the list is to remind the Israelites of the miracles that took place at each site.  From our perspective, knowing your history gives you a sense of rootedness and belonging; only the oldest among those Israelites would have been able to remember the whole journey, so it was necessary  to bring all the others up to speed.  Next, the focus shifts to the near future.  The borders of the Promised Land are defined, tribal chieftains are assigned to apportion plots of land, and 48 towns are designated for the landless Levites, including 6 cities of refuge for those guilty of manslaughter, a segue to laws for the long-term of manslaughter versus murder. The reading, and the book of Numbers, ends with a follow-up to the legal decision concerning the daughters of Zelophehad.  Previously, the five women had gone to Moses to seek to inherit their father’s portion themselves, since he’d had no son.  The Lord told Moses they were right and set forth an order of inheritance that could include women.  No doubt there were some who were “uncomfortable” with this decision, fearing it would lead them down a slippery slope to, heaven forbid, egalitarianism, but they had to accept the decision, given its Source.  Anyhow, there’s now a wrinkle: if a daughter who inherits subsequently marries, what happens to the land so that tribal boundaries don’t get screwed up?  This was easy: the daughter just needs to marry within the tribe.  And that’s what they did.

Next week, a new book: Deuteronomy (Devarim in Hebrew).

Shabbat shalom,

New State Slogans [selected]
·        Alabama: Yes, We Have Electricity
·        Arizona: But It’s A Dry Heat
·        California: By 30, Our Women Have More Plastic Than Your Honda
·        Colorado: If You Don’t Ski, Don’t Bother
·        Connecticut: Like Massachusetts, Only The Kennedy’s Don’t Own It Yet
·        Delaware: We Really Do Like The Chemicals In Our Water
·        Georgia: We Put The “Fun” In Fundamentalist Extremism
·        Hawaii: Haka Tiki Mou Sha’ami Leeki Toru (Death To Mainland Scum, But Leave Your Money)
·        Idaho: More Than Just Potatoes … Well Okay, We’re Not, But The Potatoes Sure Are Real Good
·        Kansas: First Of The Rectangle States
·        Massachusetts: Our Taxes Are Lower Than Sweden’s (For Most Tax Brackets)
·        Michigan: First Line Of Defense From The Canadians
·        Mississippi: Come And Feel Better About Your Own State
·        Montana: Land Of The Big Sky, The Unabomber, Right-Wing Crazies, And Very Little Else
·        New Hampshire: Go Away And Leave Us Alone
·        New Jersey: You Want A ##$%##! Motto? I Got Yer ##$%##! Motto Right Here!
·        New York: You Have The Right To Remain Silent, You Have The Right To An Attorney
·        North Carolina: Tobacco Is A Vegetable
·        Ohio: At Least We’re Not Michigan
·        Oregon: Spotted Owl … It’s What’s For Dinner
·        Pennsylvania: Cook With Coal
·        South Carolina: Remember The Civil War? We Didn’t Actually Surrender
·        Tennessee: The Educashun State
·        Texas: Si, Hablo Ingles (Yes, I Speak English)
·        Utah: Our Jesus Is Better Than Your Jesus
·        West Virginia: One Big Happy Family … Really!
·        Wisconsin: Come Cut The Cheese

Submitted by Seps32   ~~~~~


Getting Some Privacy in the Wilderness
Monday, May 12, 2008, 09:43 PM – Posted by Administrator

Getting away from their high-stress jobs, a couple spends relaxing weekends in their motor home. When they found their peace and quiet disturbed by well-meaning, but unwelcome, visits from other campers, they devised a plan to assure themselves some privacy.

Now, when they set up camp, they place this sign on the door of their RV:

“Insurance agent. Ask about our term-life package.”

Signs You Made A Bad Choice For a Motel
Saturday, April 26, 2008, 08:45 PM – Posted by Administrator

1. The “complimentary” paper tells you that President Nixon has resigned.
2. The mint on the pillow starts moving when you come close to it.
3. There is still some stuff that they put around crime scenes that is yellow.
4. The pictures are not placed for decoration but to cover up recent bullet holes.
5. You have to wait until the guy next door is done with the towel so you can use it.
6. There’s a chalk outline in the bed when you pull back the covers.
7. The desk clerk has to move the body in order to get some ice for you.
8. Your wake up call comes courtesy of a police helicopter

The Bus Trip

Right at the beginning of her long distance bus trip the lady seated herself right behind the bus driver. Every ten minutes or so she’d pipe up, “Have we reached Big Sandy, TX, yet, sonny?”

“No, lady, not yet. I’ll let you know,” he replied, time after time.

The hours passed, the lady kept asking for Big Sandy, and finally the little town came into view. Sighing with relief, the driver slammed on the brakes, pulled over and called out, “This is where you get out, lady.”

“Is this Big Sandy?”

“YES!” the driver bellowed. “Get out!”

“Oh, I’m going all the way to LA, sonny,” she explained sweetly. “It’s just that my daughter told me that when we got this far, I should take my blood pressure pill.”

How Many States Can You Name?

The old pastor made it to a practice to visit the parish school one day a week. He walked into the 4th grade class, where the children were studying the states, and asked them how many states they could name. They came up with about 40 names.

He jokingly told them that in his day students knew the names of all the states. One lad raised his hand and said, “Yes, but in those days there were only 13.”


Keystone Cops at the Border

A cyclist was stopped by customs at the border crossing: “What’s in the bags?” asked the officer, pointing to his bags. “Sand,” said the cyclist. “Let me take a look,” said the cop. The cyclist did as he was told, emptied the bags, and proving they contained nothing but sand, refilled the bags, and continued across the border.  A week later, the same thing happened, and continued every week for a year, until one day the cyclist with the sand bags failed to appear. A few months later, the cop saw the cyclist living it up downtown. “You sure fooled us,” said the cop. “We knew you were smuggling something across the border. I won’t say a word – but what was it you were smuggling?” “Bicycles” replied the cyclist.
————————  [sent out in 2002]

Posted by liyanage September 23, 1997 at 19:24:43:

A journalist had done a story on gender roles in Kuwait several years before the Gulf War, and she noted then that women customarily walked about 10 feet behind their husbands.

She returned to Kuwait recently and observed that the men now walked several yards behind their wives. She approached one of the women for an explanation.

“This is marvelous,” said the journalist. “What enabled women here to achieve this reversal of roles?”

Replied the Kuwaiti woman: “Land mines”



This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s