Weekly Words of Torah goes PC (Parashah and Chesed): Parashat Matot-Masei 5779

To inspire, guide, engage, enrich, and empower Conservative Jewish Women
By Rabbi Ellen S. Wolintz-Fields, Executive Director, Women’s League For Conservative Judaism

This week is a double Torah reading, of the Parashiot of Matot-Masei, and we conclude the book of Numbers, Sefer Bamidbar. In Parashat Matot, we read about the laws regarding vows and oaths, both oaths made between people and others made between people and God, and there is a discussion about the cancellation of oaths. God commands the children of Israel to take vengeance on the Midianites. Pinchas, the priest killed the magician Bilam. Moses divided the spoils of the war among the children of Israel. Conflict ensues about land inheritance between Moses and the tribes of Reuven, Gad, and half of the tribe of Menasheh. Parashat Masei recaps the journeys of the Children of israel, and reads like a trip itinerary. (This is why our WLCJ Convention 2020, (July 12-15, 2020, week we read Parashat Matot-Masei, exactly a year from now in our Torah Readings, has the theme of Sisters Journeying Together). The Torah reading discusses the boundaries of the Land of Israel, and the leaders of the twelve tribes are listed. There is a discussion about the cities of refuge for people who had unintentionally killed another. The laws of intentional and unintentional murder are found in Parashat Masei. The book of Numbers concludes with the story of the daughters of Zelophechad once again. The book of Numbers, Sefer Bamidbar, concludes with the verse, “These are the commandments and the regulations that the Lord enjoined upon the Israelites, through Moses, on the steppes of Moav, at the Jordan near Jericho.” (Numbers 36:13)

In Parashat Matot, the tribes of Reuven, Gad, and half of the tribe of Menasheh are granted permission to live east of the Jordan River, provided that they realize they are still obligated to help the rest of the Israelites conquer and settle in the Land of Israel. We can relate this concept to our modern day world and to an act of Chesed. Many of us do not live in Israel, but we feel an obligation to help those who do live in Israel. Although our next Masorti Women’s Day of Study is not until next winter, February 2020 or so, we should start now by encouraging our women in our Sisterhoods to start collecting now for their contribution to our Masorti Women’s Day of Study in Israel. If we all put some of our spare change aside each week, by Giving Tuesday in November, when we have an appeal for the Masorti Women’s Day of Study, our collective contribution from WLCJ will be the greatest ever. In addition, each WLCJ Region has a special relationship with a Masorti congregation, as listed in the back of our Calendar Diary. Find out which Masorti Congregations are in your Region: why not start making High Holiday greeting cards to send to that Congregation, or a special care package? We too can do an act of Chesed for our Masorti sisters, and so be like Reuven, Gad, and half of the tribe of Menasheh, living outside of the Land of Israel, but continuing to support our sisters in Israel.

Weekly Words of Torah is a brief paragraph prepared weekly by our Executive Director, Rabbi Ellen S. Wolintz-Fields, presented in our “This Week @ Women’s League.” WWOT will provide meaningful thoughts related to the Weekly Torah Portion, an event on the Calendar, a Prayer, or something of Jewish interest, to inspire, guide, engage, enrich, and empower Conservative Jewish Women. If you have any particular interest in future topics, or want to send Rabbi Wolintz-Fields an email, you can contact her at ewolintz-fields@wlcj.org. Read previous Weekly Words of Torah here, and stay up-to-date with the latest WWOT theme, Chesed, here.