Mattot: Split in Half

August 01, 2019 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
The centrality of the land of Israel is a basic tenet of Jewish thought. Our Sages note that mitzvot performed outside the land of Israel are little more than practice (see Rashi, Devarim 11:18)—not unlike spring training, which is necessary to get in shape for the regular season, but has no independent meaning.  In asserting this rather radical claim, our Sages refer not to those mitzvot which are dependent on the...
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Mattot: To Speak or Not to Speak

July 13, 2018 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
“In ten utterances did G-d create the world” (Avot 5:1). It is thus not surprising that many see man’s ability to speak as the clearest manifestation of the Divine image with which we were created. Moshe Rabbeinu argued that his poor speaking skills made him unworthy to be the one to redeem the Jewish people from Egypt; it was only when G-d appointed Aaron as his spokesman that Moshe finally accepted his mission. Interestingly...
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Mattot: Moshe and Midian

July 17, 2015 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
"G-d spoke to Moses, saying: Take revenge for the Israelites against the Midianites.  Then you shall die and be gathered to your people" (31:1-2).    How ironic that Moshe's death is linked to the defeat of the Midianites. Many years earlier, it was the people of Midian that saved Moshe's life.  "When Pharaoh heard this (Moshe’s murder of the Egyptian), he sought to kill Moshe, but he ran from...
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Mattot: Promises

July 18, 2014 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
Promises, promises. We are used to hearing them being broken, especially when they are made by our political leaders. Parshat Mattot begins by detailing the laws of nedarim and shevuot, vows, oaths, and the obligations to keep one's word.  Interestingly enough, unlike most of the laws of the Torah which are addressed to B'nei Yisrael, these laws of speech are addressed to roshei hamattot...
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Mattot-Massei: It's Your Land

July 05, 2013 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
“And Elazar the priest said: This is the law of the Torah, which the Lord commanded Moshe” (Bamidbar 31:21). The Torah goes on to describe the laws of kashering utensils, laws that were pertinent in light of the spoils captured by the Israelites in their war with Midian. Our Sages, quoted by Rashi, were perplexed as to why Elazar and not Moshe gave this series of laws, especially as the Torah tells us it was Moshe whom G-d...
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