Learning Group—Parshat Mattot-Masay
(Haftara: Jeremiah 2:4-28, 3:4, 4:1,2)
1. [35:11-34] “…cities of refuge will be for you…” If someone killed a person accidentally, he could run away to a “city of refuge”, and he would be safe there from revenge. In those days, it was rare that someone killed by accident. Why does the Torah devote so much space to the “cities of refuge”? What principles of law and behaviour are being taught here?
2. [Bamidbar 33:1] “These are the journeys of the children of Israel…” The Baal Shem Tov, (1700-1760), the founder of modern Chassidism, tells us that the stopping places of the Israelites represent levels in spiritual-psychological development toward a more perfected, whole personality. Why does Chassidism talk about levels (madregot) of development? Doesn’t this make a person self-conscious and self-centered? Why not just say that a person should be more compassionate, more controlled, and so on, and ignore what level a person may or may not be on?
3. [Haftara: 2:19] “Your own wickedness will correct you…” How does one’s wickedness correct him or her? Is this an effective way of learning or an inferior way of learning?
4. [Haftara: Jeremiah , 3:4, 4:1,2] If a haftara ends with a negative statement, then positive psukim are added. That is the purpose of the last psukim in this haftara. Is this wise? In this haftara, God has been rebuking the Jews. Wouldn’t it be more proper to finish with a negative statement so that the Jews will regret their actions and return to God?
5. [Calendar] We are now in the 3 weeks before Tisha b’Av. During this time, we have no weddings, no dancing, no playing musical instruments, or cutting hair. Our tradition wants to prepare us to mourn properly on Tisha b’Av. Why do we need 3 weeks to prepare us to mourn on Tisha b’Av?
[33:1] “These are the journeys of the children of Israel…”
The forty-two “stations” from Egypt to the land of Israel happen in the life of every person from his birth until his return to his source. Leaving Egypt represents birth, and one moves on until one comes to the land of elevated life (elevated life in this world and in the next world).
–R. Yisroel Baal Shem Tov, (1700-1760)
This study page is dedicated to the memory of Sarah Bella bat Yitzchak Kummer, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer
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