This week we have a combined Torah portion, Matot-Masei. Matot means “tribes” and Masei means “journeys.” These two portions are often combined in the Hebrew calendar.
Matot begins with a set of commands about nedarim [vows or commitments.] This set of commands gives rise to an entire volume of Talmud, Nedarim. It continues with an account of a battle against the Midianites, and the fallout from that battle. Masei offers us an account of the journeys of the Israelites, followed by a fascinating set of commandments setting up the “Cities of Refuge.” Finally, we hear from the family of Zelophechad again, in Part II of their saga.
Notice, too, that we are also in the Three Weeks of communal mourning before Tisha B’Av. The haftarot on these Shabbats are haftarot that abjure us to take notice of our behavior in this world. This week Jeremiah 2:4 – 28and 3:4 rebukes us for faithless behavior.
Our online darshanim this week have lots to say about this menu of topics:
Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild – Women’s Voices and the Public Space: Traditions and texts that must not disappear
Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz – Coming Out/Into the Promised Land (2016)
Rabbi Rachel Barenblat – Redeeming the Instruction to Displace & Destroy (2012)
Rabbi David Evan Markus – How to Take a Real Vacation
Rabbi Eve Posen – Parenting by the Parshah (2016)