The Nine Days: Aharon's Yahrzeit

“Aharon the priest ascended Hor Hahar and died there in the fortieth year... in the fifth month on the first of the month” (Bamidbar 33:38). It is on rare occasions that the Torah actually dates events recorded therein. Even the giving of the Torah at Sinai has no biblical date associated with it. Birthdays, anniversaries and yahrzeits are of little interest to the Bible. The tradition that Moshe dies on the 7th of Adar is one deduced, without 100% accuracy, from the narrative of Sefer Yehoshua.

Massei: Living in Canada

Canada is a wonderful country, and as residents of this country, we are obliged by Torah law to abide by its laws and also pray for its welfare. However, it is not meant to be the home of the Jewish people. Canada is, after all, galut—exile. This is a hard concept for us to truly grasp, in a land with thriving yeshivot, a strong community infrastructure, financial success, and freedom to adhere to our religious beliefs. Yet it is fundamental to Judaism. 

Mattot-Massei: On the Same Page

When the eighth day of Pesach falls on Shabbat, those of us living outside of Israel lain the special Torah reading for Yom Tov Sheni[1], while those in Israel read parshat Acharei Mot; and it is only when we conclude sefer Bamidbar more than three months later that the kriat haTorah will be unified throughout the world[2]. That such a split happens on that first Shabbat after Pesach is unavoidable.

Mattot-Massei: A Sojourn in Germany

“And these are the travels of the children of Israel”. We know little of many of the places the Jewish people encamped during their stay in the desert; the fact that Jews once lived in these places makes them worthy of mention in the Torah. Much of the parshiot of Mattot and Massei (and sefer Bamidbar, for that matter) deals with the issue of one’s place of abode.

Massei: Journeys

“And these are the journeys of the people of Israel” (33:1). The Torah lists over 40 stops along the long and winding route the Jewish people took on their journey to the land of Israel. Many of these names have never appeared before in the Bible and will never appear again. Their mention highlights the lack of purpose of so much of the stay of the Jewish people in the desert, going from meaningless place to meaningless place and accomplishing nothing—save for passing time so that a new generation could arise.

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