The Torah portions of Matos and Masei are combined and read on the same Shabbos in two cases: when that Shabbos precedes the month of Menachem Av (and is thus the day during which the month is blessed), or when that Shabbos is itself the first Shabbos of Menachem Av.
Our Rabbis comment that all the Torah portions are connected to the time period during which they are read.1 It follows that the portions of Matos and Masei are connected with the month of Menachem Av.
This connection is even more germane than the link between these portions and the three-week period of quasi-mourning known as Bein HaMitzarim , when these two portions are invariably read.2
It is the Jewish custom — Jewish custom itself being considered as sacred as Torah3 — to refer to the month of Av (while blessing this new month) by the name Menachem Av.
The literal meaning of “Menachem Av ” is “Consoling the Father.” The Jewish people console their Father in Heaven, as it were. And G-d, our Father, is in need of consolation, in light of the statement of our Sages4 that G-d says: “Woe to the Father who exiled His children.”
The connection between Menachem Av and the Torah portions of Matos and Masei will be understood accordingly. A Jew wishes for consolation during this month. But he wants consolation not so much for himself as for his Father. This concept is stressed in the portion of Matos as well as in the portion of Masei :
The Torah portion of Matos relates how G-d commanded Moshe to battle the Midianites, saying: “Exact the retribution of the people of Israel from the Midianites….”5 However, when Moshe relayed this command to the Jewish people he said: “…to exact the retribution of G-d from Midian.”6 Comments the Sifri :7 Moshe said to the Jewish people: “You are not avenging flesh and blood; you are avenging He who spoke and the world came into being. ”
This theme is mirrored in the portion of Masei , when the verse states:8 “You shall not defile the land… in which I dwell; for I, G-d, dwell among the Jewish people.” Says the Sifri :9 “Jews are loved [by G-d]. Even when they are defiled, the Shechinah is in their midst… Jews are loved [by G-d]; wherever they are exiled the Shechinah is with them… and when they return, the Shechinah returns with them.”
Thus, exile affects not only the Jewish people; the Shechinah , too, is in exile, as it were. The Jews’ redemption is thus a redemption for the Shechinah as well. Understandably, the redemption of the Shechinah is of greatest import. This is why Menachem Av — “Consolation of the Father” emphasizes G-d’s consolation.
Still, we must understand why it is that Menachem Av does not mention the sons’ consolation — the consolation of the Jewish people.
This is because a Jew is rooted so deeply in G-d that his wants, desires, state of exile, etc., are not considered his alone; if he is exiled, his Father is automatically in a state of exile, as it were. Conversely, the Father’s consolation is the consolation of His children. There can therefore be no greater consolation for the children than Menachem Av — the “Consolation of the Father.”
Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XXIII, pp. 214-220.
On The Move
The Torah portion Masei begins by stating:10 “These are the journeys of the Children of Israel who left Egypt….” The Torah then goes on to recount all the places where the Jews resided during their 40-year trek from Egypt to the Promised Land.
Our Sages11 ask: By recounting the places where the Jewish people camped rather than the journeys themselves, the Torah is indicating that the resting places are more important than the journeys. This being so, the verse should have stated: “These are the encampments …,” rather than “These are the journeys …” Especially so, since the Jews spent the majority of these 40 years in their encampments, and not in travel.
The ultimate purpose of both the Jews’ travels and encampments was, of course, to enter Eretz Yisrael. The encampments were therefore also termed “journeys,” for they served no purpose in and of themselves.
In commenting on the verse, “These are the journeys of the Children of Israel who left Egypt….” the Baal Shem Tov notes12 that the 42 journeys of the Jewish people from Egypt to Eretz Yisrael are mirrored in the 42 spiritual journeys undertaken by each and every Jew from the time of his birth — his personal departure from “Egypt” — to his arrival at the edge of the “Land of Life.”
Understandably, the “rest stops” and “encampments” along the way refer to the various stages of spiritual growth to be experienced during life’s journey.
But the previous question reoccurs: Surely, since the emphasis is on man’s accomplishments — his “encampments” — the verse should have stated “These are the encampments ,” rather than “These are the journeys ”?
In order for man to accomplish all that he is capable of, he must be constantly “on the move.” We thus find the following difference between “stopping” and “moving” in terms of man’s service:13
Even when a person rises from level to level, if the new level is comparable to the previous one, the individual has not truly departed from the lower level, and is considered to be “stationary.”
“On the move” means there is no comparison between a person’s former state and his present one — the individual has totally departed from his previous level.
The verse therefore emphasizes “the journeys ,” indicating that a Jew should never be satisfied with moving from one level to a comparable one. Rather, he must constantly “journey” in a manner whereby his next stage is infinitely higher than his current one.
This latter manner of “travel” contains two elements: departing from the previous level and attaining the infinitely higher one. As long as there has not been a complete departure from the former level, the higher level cannot be attained.
This, then, is the meaning of “These are the journeys of the Children of Israel who left Egypt ….” Why was it necessary for there to be many “journeys” in order to leave Egypt; it would seem that with the first journey the Jewish people already departed Egypt?14
Egypt is symbolic of spiritual limitations. Thus, the “encampments” — the spiritual achievements en route — did not constitute complete redemption from “Egypt.” In order to arrive at the Promised Land, there had to be a total departure from previous “encampments,” for each stopping — no matter how lofty the waystation — itself represented a lingering within the state of “Egypt.”
Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XXIII, pp. 224-227.
1. Shaloh, Cheilek Torah SheBiksav, 297a.
2. See Shaloh p. 366ff.
3. See Yerushalmi Pesachim 4:1; Tosafos titled Nifsal, Menachos 20b; et al.
4. Berachos 3a.
5. Bamidbar 31:2.
6. Ibid. verse 3.
7. Ibid.; see also Rashi ibid.; Bamidbar Rabbah 22:2; Tanchuma , Matos 3.
8. Bamidbar 35:34.
10. Bamidbar 33:1.
11. Alshich ibid. See also Klei Yakar and Orach Chayim ibid.
12. Quoted in Degel Machne Efrayim , beginning of portion Masei.
13. See Likkutei Torah, Shlach 38d; Tze’enah U’ri’enah 5660 ; Sefer HaMa’amarim 5671 p. 69ff.
14. See Likkutei Torah, Masei 88c.
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