A Double Torah Portion for this Sabbath;
Mattot (Numbers 30:2-32:42) Haftarah:(Jeremiah 1:1-2:3)
Masei (Numbers 33:1-36:13)Haftarah (Jeremiah 2:4-28, 3:4,4:1-2)
Rosh Chodesh Av is this Sabbath. The Haftarah will also be related to the new month.
A special prayer for the new month will be recited on Friday night and Saturday morning.
The first Torah parsha contains the making of vows. Both men and women would take upon themselves special obligations beyond those required by the Law. The war against the Midianites, appointment of spoils of battle, and the tribes that settled east of the Jordan River.
The Torah, by implication, and the rabbis, in explicit terms, denounce those who resort to vows and oaths. A person should be able to act correctly without taking such extreme measures. Many people regret making a vow as soon as they utter it. In that case, if the vow is formally canceled, it becomes invalid retroactively. This is an annulment. The Torah allowed a way through hatarat nedarim (release from vows and oaths). In this process, a learned sage or three ordinary persons can absolve someone from their vow by asking him whether he would still have made it had he known beforehand what the consequences of the vow would be. Anyone who made a vow or took an oath and did not keep it was subject to the penalty of lashes.
Judaism calls the moral and ethical behaviour as derekh ertez. It is one of our mitzvot/commandments. If a person has made a vow to G-d and does not fulfill the vow, the individual may be forgiven by G-d on Yom Kippur. Making a promise or stating something bad to an individual; a person asks forgiveness of the individual during Yom Kippur. During the High Holidays the Al Chet, the Avinu Malkeinu is recited in the plural and in unison. These prayers keep each person unaware of anyone’s misbehavior in the year that ended in a personal way and going forward for better future behaviour from all.
The second Torah parsha from the Book of Numbers continues with the Israelites’ route from Egypt to the Jordan River. The Commandments for Israel’s entry into the Land of Canaan. The boundaries of the Promise Land, cities assigned to the Levites, cities of refuge and the reiteration of laws pertaining to female heirs to property.
Keep in mind that our ancestors put aside six cities, three on each side of the Jordan River for asylum for persons who committed manslaughter. This provision was made to avoid bloodshed, since Israelites at the time still practiced the primitive principle in which a kinsman of the murdered person (go’el hadam) took it upon himself to pursue and slay the murderer.
The Torah has a requirement of two witnesses. In Numbers 35:30 we learn that the testimony of a single witness was not enough to make anyone liable to the death penalty. The reason for two witnesses is that it provided a safeguard, since one person may have a bias in the case. Two witnesses were related to each other, they were disqualified. In rabbinical times, among those excluded from giving testimony as witnesses in capital cases were women, minors, slaves, deaf mutes, professional gamblers, and everyone who knowingly transgressed the laws of the Torah or was ignorant of them.
Today, the courts have juries and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Not all countries have this kind of justice. Our ancestors knew derekh ertz( proper behaviour within the land or community) and rachmuness (compassion) over 3,000 years ago. Many countries follow the Torah’s laws and guidelines in regard to justice.
The reason why we have a double Torah portion is because we will be finishing the Book of Numbers(Bemidbar). It contains 1228 verses, 36 chapters and sidrot.
Hazak, Hazak, V’Nitkhzak! Strength, Strength and May we Strengthen One Another!
On Sunday, I will be writing an early double Torah portion for the Shabbatot, while I am away visiting my family. If you need me, my email is Halevi8663@aol.com, and I will return the correspondence in a timely manner.
Rabbi Helene Ainbinder