Sign up to TorahFax


Tuesday, Tammuz 27, 5778 / July 10, 2018

This Shabbat we read the last two Parshiot of the Book of Bamidbar (Numbers), Matot & Masei.


The reason we combine the two Parshiot is because we always read Devarim, the first Parsha of the Book of Deuteronomy, on the Shabbat before Tisha B’Av (9th day in Av), or on Tisha B’Av itself when it falls on Shabbat.


This year Tisha B’Av is on Shabbat, thus we have to combine Matot & Masei this Shabbat, so that we can read Parshat Devarim on the following Shabbat, which is Tisha B’Av.


Parshat Matot begins with the laws of vows. The Parsha begins, “Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes; to the children of Israel, saying This is what G-d has commanded. When a person makes a vow to G-d or makes an oath to prohibit upon him something, he may not violate his word. According to whatever comes out from his mouth he must do.”


Here we see the emphasis the Torah places on fulfilling a vow. It is the same when one makes a commitment to charity, one must fulfill their commitment. But we are only human and there may be a chance that one will not be able to fulfill their commitment. For this reason, one should add the words, “Bli Neder,” when making a commitment or promise. “Bli Neder” means, “Without a vow.”


King Solomon emphasizes the power of speech as follows, “Life and death are in the hands of the tongue.”


Q. The Torah specifies that Moshe first spoke to the “heads of the tribes” and then to all of Israel. Why were the heads of the tribes emphasized here as a category in themselves and not included together with all the people of Israel?


A. The Torah speaks here about fulfilling vows and promises. “Heads of the Tribes,” represent those who are in positions of leadership. Many people who seek positions of leadership will tend to make all kinds of promises to the voters in order to get elected to that position. But unfortunately, when they do get elected, as we see with many politicians, they forget their promises…


This is why the Torah singles out the heads of the tribes, for this law applies especially to them.


Q. What if one makes a vow to transgress a commandment?


A. In that case one is prohibited to fulfill the vow. The reason is because a personal vow cannot override G-d's commandments. Also, we have already vowed at the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, to keep and observe all the commandments.