Thursday, July 12, 2007

Vayedaber Adonay el-Moshe lemor...

I'm not going to lie. My love affair with this website is deep, passionate and full of all sorts of educational enlightenment. It not only offers Torah, the transliteration and the translation, but also sound clips of the portion! Did I mention that the Hebrew appears both WITH and WITHOUT vowels? Talk about brilliant. There's a wealth of knowledge here beyond this, though. Within the translation of the text, there are words that are linked to mini-commentary/details at the bottom of the page. Just click and bam, you get some nice tidbit. I suppose I should also mention that the site *is* a bar/bat mitzvah tutor, which is probably why it's full of all sorts of genealogical, reference and help material! The genealogical portion of the site is pretty snazzy ... you can find out the immediate "relatives" of any of the names in Torah! How cool!?!?!?!?!? Now the commentary isn't as detailed or extensive as my Etz Chayim, but it's a pretty stellar way to get the parshah done.


This week is a combo of Mattot and Ma'sai, which finish up Numbers. The first portion is dedicated to the "holy war" of sorts on the Midianites in order to "avenge" G-d after the events at Baal-peor. The second portion is mostly a recap of the years wandering; that is, where we camped out and what happened.

Though there wasn't a lot in the portions that struck me as intellectually divisive, there was one bit that struck me as relevant. In Ma'sai, there's a portion (Num. 33:53) that reads Vehorashtem et-ha'arets vishavtem-bah ki lachem natati et-ha'arets lareshet otah. In translation this basically is saying that we must clear out the land that G-d has given to us, because, well, G-d gave it to us. I think this is interesting, and the comment points out that this is often cited as evidence that the whole of the land is ours, and probably is where radical Jews get their view for much of the tussle over who Israel truly belongs to, and why some will stop at *nothing* to return the land fully and completely to the tribe.

The other thing I found interesting actually has me backtracking to Mattot. While in the heat of battle, the heads return to Moses and he's all up in arms because the fighters neglected to kill all of the women of sexual maturity when it was they who had seduced the Israelites (Num. 31:14-17). As such, Moses has them return to kill all of them women who were sexually mature (i.e. not virgins). What I'm wondering is how the troops knew who was sexually mature and who wasn't ... what type of test do you formulate to acquire such knowledge of a woman's sexual experiences? I imagine this is something in the Midrash, and perhaps I'll get to looking someday. It seems curious, though, that such large numbers of people would have to be examined in some way to deduce sexual maturity ...

And finally, as I pondered perhaps the difficulty Moses might have had in the demolition of the Midianites because his wife, Tziporah was a Midianite, and after doing some looking and examining, I'm drawn curiously to the long-standing discussion about Tziporah and whether she was a Midianite or a Cushite. I guess that makes me wonder whether Moses would have been upset about it at all, seeing as how it's undecided whether there were two different women, who was a concubine, what Tzippy was, etc. The reason this struck me is because the commentary in Etz Chayim Numbers 31 cites that Moses might not have participated in the physical killing because of his sympathy and concern due to Tzippy's being a Midianite and all. Puzzling!