Mattot-Mase’ei (Numbers 30:2 – 36:13)

(Comments are from 2016 except as noted)

Mattot-Mase’ei is a double portion that ends the book of Numbers.  (It largely ties up loose ends. 2020) It is also really the end of the story of the wandering of the Israelites, since Deuteronomy is pretty much just a month-long valedictory address by Moses.  Mattot (Num. 30:2 – 32:42) starts with a section on vows.  If a man makes a vow, he fulfills it.  If a woman makes a vow, it’s complicated (sigh).  Depending on her age, marital status, and circumstances, her father or husband could be responsible for the fulfillment of the vow or revoke it.  However, a widow or divorcee is responsible for her own vow.

Next, a loose end:  The Midianites haven’t been punished yet for seducing the Israelites into apostasy, so the Lord commands Moses to wage war on them, after which he will die.  This is a nasty war of vengeance, the type of episode bordering on ethnic cleansing (female virgins were allowed to live) that makes readers uncomfortable today.

Then, as Moses contemplates his death outside the Promised Land, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh decide they’d rather not cross the Jordan because the land on this side is really good for their livestock.  Moses somehow manages to control his temper and grants their request, along as they provide shock troops for the military campaigns in the Promised Land.  They agree.

Mase’ei (Num. 33:1 – 36:13) reviews the travels of the Israelites over the past 40 years, kind of like a parent going through a family photograph album with a now-grown child.  Fourteen pairs of verses are traditionally chanted with the melody used in the Song at the Sea.  There are 42 encampments listed, some familiar, some unknown.  Most of the traveling was done at the beginning and end of the journey: 14 encampments in the first 2 years and 8 after Aaron’s death in the 40th year, leaving 20 in the middle 38 or so years.

Then the borders are set, leaders appointed, and the land apportioned.   Forty-eight cities are set aside for the Levites, who have no land.  Six of these are cities of refuge, 3 on each side of the Jordan, to protect those who kill unintentionally from their victims’ families.

Finally, the matter of the daughters of Zelophehad (Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah) is re-examined.  That’s what happens when you make a law; there are always unforeseen consequences, thus more laws.  In this case, the (male) leaders of the family of Gilead (Zelophehad’s grandfather – see 27:1) realize that, if the daughters inherit their father’s hereditary land portion and they marry outside their tribe (Manasseh), that land will be lost to the tribe.  Moses decides (this time he doesn’t have to kick it Upstairs) that their claim is just.  A woman who inherits must marry within the tribe.   And the daughters of Zelophehad obligingly marry their cousins.  So ends the Book of Numbers.

The haftarah is the second Haftarah of Rebuke, Jeremiah 2:4 – 28, plus 3:4and/ or 4:1 – 2, those last verses to end on a hopeful note.  It picks up where last week’s left off.  The people admit their wrongdoing, but there is as yet no sign of repentance.  There is only remorse at getting caught. (At least, there is remorse. Nowadays, if you’re chummy with the right person/people, you can be caught, found guilty, show no remorse, and go free…2020)

Next week, a new book, Deuteronomy, known in Hebrew as דברים (Devarim, words).
Shabbat shalom,


An odd political problem in Colorado.

Cattle has long been the number one agricultural product of Colorado, but the recent legalization of marijuana is causing significant and unforeseen problems.

Apparently, cows love marijuana as much as people, and cattle ranches and nearby marijuana farms are on the brink of open warfare. Cows keep breaking down fences and eating entire crops of marijuana, so the growers are suing the ranchers for damages. At the same time, cattle ranchers are counter-suing the marijuana growers for damaging THEIR product, since consuming even a small amount of marijuana ruins the flavor of both beef and milk.

Tensions are running extremely high, and the political fallout could be extreme. In addition to the lawsuits, both sides are gathering signatures for ballot measures to limit the other group’s ability to retaliate. It’s an incredibly important issue for the entire state, threatening the entire future of either Colorado’s historic beef industry or its new but rapidly-growing marijuana industry. The economic impact is unprecedented, and the political, social, and legal fallout will likely affect the entire nation.

Basically, the steaks have never been higher.


tph travel agency cutout


Jokes About Vows

PRIEST: You may now read the vows you have prepared
ME: I think I misunderstood the assignment
PRIEST: Just read what you have”
ME: OK [deep breath]… A E I O U

A shy priest greets the wedding guests to the Chapel. He’s very nervous and doesn’t say much.
As the couple approach the altar the priest steps up and gives the best speech anyone has ever heard. He’s full of confidence, incredibly expressive and has everyone in fits of laughter!
After the vows, the priest is extremely shy and barely says a word to anyone.
The groom approaches the him and asks, “Why are you so shy? You seemed like a different person when you were giving that speech!”
“I know…” says the priest, “but that was just my altar ego”.


10 of the strangest wills of all time

“… for some people, a will is not just a list of bequests; it’s a chance to leave a loved-one a final thoughtful gesture, or show a hopeful relative how much you preferred the dog to them. We’ve rounded up 10 strange bequests left in wills for anyone needing a little inspiration …” (Here are two of them. IGP)

4) The “second-best bed” Poor Anne Hathaway, aka Mrs Shakespeare, has gone down in history as being snubbed by the Bard from beyond the grave. In his will, Shakespeare left her his “second-best bed” while the vast bulk of his estate went to his daughter Susanna.

Antony Nixon, a partner at Thomas Eggar LLP, suggests that today this will could easily be challenged: “Anne could almost certainly claim, under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, that William’s will failed to make ‘reasonable financial provision’ for her, and ask a court to award her more.”

8) A legacy of bitterness Michigan millionaire Wellington Burt used his will to put his enormous wealth out of reach of his family for almost a full century. When he died in 1919, his will was discovered to specify that his vast fortune would not be passed on until 21 years after the death of his last surviving grandchild. She died in 1989 and the 21-year countdown ended on November 2010. About 12 people discovered they were beneficiaries of the strange will, described as a “legacy of bitterness”, and they shared a fortune estimated to be worth $110m.


Quotes About Loose Ends

  • It is the loose ends with which men hang themselves. — Zelda Fitzgerald
  • If you lack the humility to go back and tie up the loose ends in your past, then be prepared to forever be haunted by her ghosts, all of whom will come into your present and your future – staining everything and everyone with their leftover emotional and mental garbage. —  JoyBell C.
  • Of course it’s not simple. Who said it was simple? But you know what? Lots of loose ends don’t ever get tied up. Play the hand you’re dealt. Move on. — Michael Punke
  • These modern novels that leave everything unfinished annoy me … ”
    “But things are often unfinished in real life,” said Pat …
    “All the more reason why they should come right in books,” said Uncle Horace testily. “Real life! We get enough real life living. I like fairy tales. I like a nice snug tidy ending in a book with all the loose ends tucked in. — L.M. Montgomery
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