Mattot-Masei (Numbers 30:2- 36:13)

My eyesight is currently very asymmetrical and not up to par for extended close work. I expected to be through with all that on Thursday.  But it’s not to be, because my second cataract surgery unexpectedly had to be postponed from today to tomorrow because the manufacturer sent the wrong lens.  This was discovered after the eye was already really, really dilated and I had taken a very effective dose of Valium, so I’m still blurry in more ways than one.  So, rather than waiting for continuous clarity on Friday, I will take advantage of an interval of only mild cloudiness and send this 2012 (pre-retirement) missive today. Old comments, new humor. 

From 2012  I like to set aside vacation days so I can take Fridays off in the summer for a combination of miscellaneous errands, chores, and goofing off.  Kind of like this week’s double Torah portion, Mattot-Masei.  This morning did not start well.  I woke up with a headache, thought my purse had been stolen after I left it at the local bakery, and took a short cut to an errand that turned out to be a long cut.  But I’ve noticed that when 3 things go awry first thing, the rest of the day turns out OK.  So far, so good: my headache is gone, my purse was found intact, and the errands are done.  And how is this like this week’s Torah reading?

The reading ends the book of Numbers, not very grandly, but with a combination of getting some miscellaneous chores and errands done (see?) and finishing up the final preparations for entrance into the Promised Land (OK, that doesn’t parallel my goofing off).  And at the end, despite a few bumps, it looks like things are finally turning out OK for the Israelites.

Mattot begins with a section on vows and commitment, including a rule that a husband or father can nullify vows made by the wife or daughter; however, widows and divorcees are totally responsible for their own vows.  The war, against Midian, announced in last week’s reading, is carried out.  Bil’am (Balaam) is killed.  The war is a combination of massacre and looting; in fact, Moses is angry that the army initially let the women and children live instead of only young female virgins. This is another one of those troubling episodes that is really difficult for us to explain or justify. Mattot ends with a deal made with the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and the half tribe of Manasseh, who don’t want to cross over the Jordan because where they are looks really good for grazing cattle.  Moses, who is probably gnashing his teeth at their casually turning down the one thing he can’t have, allows it as long as they send troops ahead to help conquer Canaan.

Masei includes a summary of the Israelites’ itinerary for the 40 years since they left Egypt, a mini history lesson for this new generation.  The boundaries of the Promised Land are set.  The tribal chieftains are named.  48 towns are set aside for the Levites and 6 “cities of refuge” are established to protect those guilty of manslaughter (not murder).  Finally, Zelophehad’s daughters show up again because a wrinkle has come up regarding inheriting their father’s portion (legal decisions always generate wrinkles afterwards): what happens to that land if they marry outside the tribe? It’s decided that they should marry within the tribe (according to the Talmud, this was just advice, not a command), and indeed, they marry their cousins.

We are now in the midst of a semi-mourning season, the 3 weeks before Tisha B’Av, and the haftarah is the second of the three Haftarot of Rebuke, Jeremiah 2:4-28, 3:4, 4:1-2 (those last few verses vary), which picks up where last week’s ended and rebukes Israel for disloyalty to the Lord. It’s also the second of 10 haftarot between now and Rosh Hashanah that are connected to the season, rather than the Torah reading.  More on that next week.

Shabbat shalom,


Military Pranks Are Scarier Than Bombs

The military has a long, proud tradition of pranking recruits. Here are some favorites from

  • Instructed a private in the mess hall to look for left-handed spatulas
  • Sent a recruit to medical-supplies office in search of fallopian tubes
  • Had a new guy conduct a “boom test” on a howitzer by yelling “Boom!” down the tube in order to “calibrate” it
  • Ordered a private to bring back a five-gallon can of dehydrated water (in fact, the sergeant just wanted an empty water can)


tph cattle driving


Laughable, Risible and Amusing Complaints Made By Holidaymakers to Travel Agents

6 The beach was too sandy.

12 My fiancé and I booked a twin-bedded room but we were placed in a double-bedded room. We now hold you responsible for the fact that I find myself pregnant. This would not have happened if you had put us in the room that we booked.

14 The brochure stated: “No hairdressers at the accommodation”. We’re trainee hairdressers – will we be OK staying here?

Funny Australian Travel Agent Stories:

These questions were posted on an Australian Tourism website and the answers are the actual responses by the website’s official. Their travel agencies obviously have a sense of humour.

Q: Will I be able to see kangaroos in the street when I visit Australia? (from USA) 
A: Depends how much you’ve been drinking.

Q: Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Australia? (USA)

A: A-fri-ca is the big triangle-shaped continent south of Europe. 
Aus-tra-lia is that big island in the middle of the Pacific which does not… oh forget it. Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Kings Cross.

Q: Can you send me the Vienna Boys’ Choir schedule? (USA) 
A: Aus-tri-a is that quaint little country bordering Ger-man-y, which is…oh forget it. Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday night in Kings Cross, straight after the hippo races.

Q! : Please send a list of all doctors in Australia who can dispense rattlesnake serum. (USA) 
A: Rattlesnakes live in A-mer-i-ca, which is where YOU come from. All Australian snakes are perfectly harmless, can be safely handled, and make good pets.

Q: Will I be able to speak English most places I go? (USA) 
A: Yes, but you’ll have to learn it first.


I had to include these, part of a storyline.  My husband’s family came from Plock (pronounced Plotsk, more or less) in Russian Poland. IGP

 tph plotsk

tph plotsk 2

tph hypocritic oath

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