In the first of this week’s two action-packed portions, Moses teaches the rules and restrictions governing oaths and vows. Promises are serious business. When we say that we plan to do something — even something as simple as, ‘I’ll call you later’ — we’re bound by our words. Anticipating entrance into the land of Israel, the tribes of Gad and Reuben petition Moses to remain on the eastern side of the Jordan River because that land is particularly suitable for grazing their cattle. Moses, not wanting to ‘steer’ Gad and Reuben wrong, grants their request on the condition that they first help the rest of the nation in conquering the entire land of Israel before returning to settle their inheritance. Masei (a word that means ‘journeys’) begins with a listing of the 42 encampments of the Jewish people’s 40 year journey from the Exodus until the crossing of the Jordan River into the Land of Israel. The boundaries of the Land of Israel are defined. Since the Levites would not be receiving a regular portion of the land, 48 cities are set aside for them. Cities of refuge are established; one who unintentionally murders can flee there. So ends the book of Numbers, the fourth of the Books of the Torah.
Next week — on to Deuteronomy!
The 9 Days
Rosh Chodesh Av occurred on Friday, August 2. This began a period of time known as the ‘9 Days.’ The first nine days of the month of Av, and also the morning of the tenth, are days of acute mourning for the destruction of the first and second Holy Temples. In addition to the restrictions that apply to the entire three-week period, during this time we refrain from the following additional joyous activities: Eating meat and drinking wine (except for Shabbos), laundering clothing, swimming or bathing for pleasure and remodeling or expanding a home. For questions or further details, please contact Rabbi Smason.