In our desire to provide you with the teaching of Messiah Yeshua in a Jewish context, we provide in-depth teachings of the weekly Torah portions throughout the year. Below are various perspectives from various teachers and staff members from Netivyah Bible Instruction ministry.
Note: This is a double Torah portion. To learn more about double Torah portions, read here.
Joseph Shulam: The Torah of the Lord Is Carved on Our Hearts 
The Torah reading this week is from the last two Torah portions of the book of Numbers, Matot-Massei, Numbers 30:2-36:13. From the prophets the reading is Isaiah 66:1-25. From the New Testament we read from James 4:1-12. I am tempted to write this week on the Haftarah of Isaiah 66:1-25. But there are a few things from the two Parashot of the end of Numbers Matot/Massei that I feel that I must mention.
The Torah Reading starts with the issue of taking a vow, a bond. This is something that is of great importance in our days because Christians have forgotten the teaching of Yeshua in the Sermon on the mountain.
“This is the thing which the Lord has commanded: If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth. ‘Or if a woman makes a vow to the Lord, and binds herself by some agreement while in her father’s house in her youth, and her father hears her vow and the agreement by which she has bound herself, and her father holds his peace, then all her vows shall stand, and every agreement with which she has bound herself shall stand. But if her father overrules her on the day that he hears, then none of her vows nor her agreements by which she has bound herself shall stand; and the Lord will release her, because her father overruled her. If indeed she takes a husband, while bound by her vows or by a rash utterance from her lips by which she bound herself, and her husband hears it, and makes no response to her on the day that he hears, then her vows shall stand, and her agreements by which she bound herself shall stand. But if her husband overrules her on the day that he hears it, he shall make void her vow which she took and what she uttered with her lips, by which she bound herself, and the Lord will release her.’” – Numbers 30:1-9 [NKJV]
We are living in a season where words don’t seem to be worth much. Our culture is such that people speak and promise and make strong promises (vows) and even swear that they will keep their promises, but even don’t feel guilty or remorse if they don’t keep their promises and their vows. I find even so called “spiritual leaders,” “Messianic rabbis,” and pastors who act like the spoken word is not really binding.
For some even the written word or a legal contract is not necessarily respected because the court system in Israel is so very lenient. However, in this text and in the words of Yeshua we see how serious our words and promises are in the eyes of our Lord. Here is what our Lord says:
“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your “Yes’ be “Yes,’ and your “No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” – Matthew 5:33-37 [NKJV]
It is obvious that these words of Yeshua are based on our Torah portion of this Shabbat. Yeshua like a typical Pharisee rabbi is building a fence around the Torah commandment. He says that you can make a vow and swear to keep it, but it would be safer and better for you if you don’t swear at all or take a vow at all. Let you “Yes” by “Yes” and your “No” be “No.” In other words Yeshua is teaching us that if you get to a place where you have to swear that you are going to keep your promises and respect your words and agreements you are already in trouble. If you are not trusted for your words Yeshua says you are already falling into the trap of the “evil one.”
Our reputation in town and in the body of the Messiah is and ought to be based on our credibility and the value of our words. If the merchants in downtown Jerusalem don’t trust you as a pastor or a rabbi or just as a plain disciple of Yeshua, your spiritual credibility is also not worth a dime. It is such a shame for leaders and pastors to have a bad reputation in the business community in their cities. Why would anyone trust these pastors or rabbis for what they say from the pulpit more than for what they say and promise to the shop owners in town?
I have to share with you a story about one of the most famous and respected pastors in the United States. He had visited our congregation in Jerusalem and we asked him to preach and share God’s word with us. He looked at the suit that I was wearing and said, “I want to invite you to come to my city and preach in my church, but the way you are dressed I can’t let you on my pulpit. I will have to take you and get you a proper suit and dress you up right if you are going to preach from my pulpit.” I said fine! This pastor didn’t know that my suits were all handmade by an old Arab tailor that lived on the Mount of Olives, and that the material was purchased in London and was some of the best that money can buy. I said nothing.
When I arrived to his city the next day with pomp and ceremony the pastor came in the morning and picked me up and took me down town and to the fanciest men’s shop in that town. I looked at about 15 suits and none were good for me. Each one of these suits was from Italy and the cheapest were even on sale 3000 US dollars and up. After near two and a half hours of trying on suits, I was tired and decided to get the cheapest suit that was in my size even if it was not what I really liked. It was one of the cheapest suits in the shop. So, the pastor added shirts and socks and shoes and underwear to the purchase.
When we came to the cashier it was clear that the owner of the shop was very familiar with this pastor. Immediately I noticed that the owner is an Arab. I started to speak to the owner in Arabic and found out that he is originally from Egypt. When it came time for the pastor to pay for what we were getting he took out a wad of hundred dollars bills in what is called a Mexican bankroll.
The Pastor started to peal off 100 dollars bills to make the payment. The Egyptian owner said to me in Arabic: “Joseph do you know who comes to my shop and buys expensive cloths and always pays in cash?” I said in Arabic no sir! The Arab said: only pastors and pimps. The book of Proverbs says: “A good name is more valuable than expensive oil. Joseph. Please guard your name!” The first person who said that to me was a stranger that I met on the streets of Jerusalem near the orthodox Jewish neighborhood. It was Gordon Lindsay, who founded Christ for the Nations in Dallas. I was a stranger to brother Lindsay and He was a stranger to me. But, just this one meeting with this man of God and his words kept me many times from falling.
The Torah makes it clear if you make a promise or take a vow. You must keep it at all cost. The Apostle Paul made a vow to go to Jerusalem and celebrate the feast of Shavuot (Pentecost) and he had to keep his vow even at the cost of his life.
The second thing in our Torah reading this Shabbat that I would like to share is the faithfulness of the Torah to God’s promises.
The land of Canaan was promised to Abraham and to His seed. More than 400 years had passed from the time that the Lord promised the Land to Abraham and His seed forever (See Genesis 13:15-16). Now the Lord is keeping his promises and shows Moses how the land will be divided among the tribes of Israel and the families of each tribe.
The Lord has not forgotten the amendment that He corrected and the changes in the law that allowed the daughters of Zelophehad to inherit the land of their father who had no sons. The Lord keeps his promises and does not forget them. So, before they enter the land of promise, God gives Moses and the leadership of Israel the following instruction:
“This is what the Lord commands concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying, ‘Let them marry whom they think best, but they may marry only within the family of their father’s tribe.’ So the inheritance of the children of Israel shall not change hands from tribe to tribe, for every one of the children of Israel shall keep the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers. And every daughter who possesses an inheritance in any tribe of the children of Israel shall be the wife of one of the family of her father’s tribe, so that the children of Israel each may possess the inheritance of his fathers. Thus no inheritance shall change hands from one tribe to another, but every tribe of the children of Israel shall keep its own inheritance.’” – Numbers 36:6-9 [NKJV]
This was a major change both legally and administratively, but also it was the first time that women were allowed to inherit the property of their father. Provision was made to keep the property as a part of the tribal inheritance.
These daughters of Zelophehad had to marry within their tribe so that the total property of the tribe does not diminish and move to the hands of another tribe. But, it was a major change of the laws and the customs of the people and it showed the flexibility of the Torah and of our God that understands the need to adjust the law sometimes when the circumstances justly demand it.
This is for me of great importance as we too as disciples of Yeshua must have that same attitude as Moses and the Lord had. We must take our issues before the Lord in prayer and consult the word of God from Genesis to Revelation to find solutions to some of the issues that come up from the use of modern technology and not be stuck in a legalistic and frozen understanding of God’s Word.
We must observe these examples in the Torah, and the way that Moses and the Lord Himself see that the Torah as being a Torah for life and for living and not simply a frozen word carved on stone. The Torah of the Lord is carved on our hearts according to Jeremiah 31:31-37 and we must allow for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to guide us to live, and not to die, with the word, that kills, but live with the Spirit that brings the Lord’s word to life as a life-giving fountain of fresh and living water!
Joseph Shulam: Our Words, Our Witness 
We are reading a double portion of the Torah and the prophets on this next Shabbat! We are reading Matot (Numbers 30:1-32:42) and Masei (Numbers 33:1-36:13). From the prophets we are reading from Jeremiah 1:1-3:4. From the New Testament we read this Shabbat from Philippians 3;12-16, and from James (Jacob) 4:1-12.
The agenda of Numbers 30 is the legal force of promises and vows and binding obligations undertaken under oath. This issue is universal, and has importance for all ages and cultures.
Today the issue has doubled in importance because words are being written and recorded by audio and video and broadcast around the globe in seconds. There are records of what we speak and of what we do of which we are even unaware. Big Brother has us bugged at all times and in any location!
We might not like it but we can’t stop it as long as we continue to use our convenient and accessible devices – our smart phones, iPads, computers… so we must be doubly alert and more careful of what we say especially as disciples of Yeshua. Here is what Yeshua has to say concerning this issue:
“But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” – Matthew 5:34-37 [NKJV]
It is interesting that James (Jacob) in his letter repeats the teaching of Yeshua:
“Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door! My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No,’ lest you fall into judgment.” – James 5:9-12 [NKJV]
Yeshua and James (Jacob) are instructing us, Yeshua’s disciples, to have a firm word, a promise and an honest intent to keep and do whatever it is that was promised or agreed upon between the parties. It is always one of the hardest thing for me, and for others in Jerusalem to have some merchant in town who knows that we are believers in Yeshua, and he tells us that so and so, a known Jewish believer in Yeshua, has cheated him and made promises without any intention of keeping them.
Even much more serious are cases where some Christian missionary has taken a product from the shop with the promise to return it the next day after he shows it to his wife. Months later the Christian has not returned the product, has not answered his phone, has not kept his promise.
We see that both the Torah and our Lord Yeshua and James his brother all say the same thing – if you make a promise or take a vow or take an oath the Lord Himself obligates you to keep it and if you don’t keep it – it becomes a very serious sin that no one can absolve you of under normal circumstances.
Now here comes that not politically correct part of the Torah and I am happy that the Torah is witnessing against the politically correct cult that is ruling the culture and the streets of our modern Godless towns without pity.
How lucky are our women according to the Torah? Women can make a promise and even take an oath or make a vow, but if they have a father that is living or a husband, they can free their women, daughters and wives, from their vows and oaths and self-imposed binding obligation.
How wonderful and wise is our God who gave us the Torah and the Prophets and sent His only begotten Son to save us and has given our women, the privilege of having their vows and oaths and self-imposed binding obligations annulled. The Lord who designed us and who has provided us with a companion for life, knows our strengths and our weaknesses and makes provision to uncomplicate our lives as much as possible.
I believe in equality and would like to have equality with women if only for this privilege that women have received from the almighty God that their promises and vows and self-imposed obligations can be annulled by their father or their husband.
The last thing that I want to say is that we should all see how serious and what grave consequences our promises and words can have on us personally and upon our families and communities and also reflect upon our communities and our Lord.
The simplest thing is the best for us. Let those in our town and those with whom we do business and commerce know that our “yes” is “yes”, and our “no” is “no!” Let us all who claim to be disciples of Yeshua know that our words are a part of our witness and when our words put us to shame, they put Yeshua our Lord to shame as well.
Joseph Shulam: The Problem With The Pursuit of Happiness 
This Shabbat the reading is from the last few chapters of the book of Numbers. This is a double Torah portion. The reading is from Numbers 30:2–36:13. The portion of the haftarah, the prophets, is from Jeremiah 2:4-28, 3:4,4:1,2. This next shabbat, August 3, 2019, is the second of Av, 5779. This means that Friday is Rosh Hodesh, the New Moon of the month of Av.
The month of Av is a very special month. Because it is the month on which so many calamities, and I dare say fulfillments of prophecies of the wrath of God, happened. The Temple of Solomon was destroyed on the ninth of Av. The Temple that Herod the great built was destroyed on the ninth of Av, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 was on the same date, and so many other calamities happened on this date of the ninth of Av.
For me, this date is a horrible date for every Jew, and I think for everyone who believes in the God who created the world and still controls it, and dictates human history. You see, all these events in Jewish history happened as the prophets foretold that they would happen, but the prophets didn’t give dates. The fact that the same date has some 16 different events, bad events in Jewish history, is a proof that someone is actually directing history and controlling the affairs of mankind.
For the Jewish people, this month and this date, the ninth day of the month of Av, should be a sign and a wonder, a proof that our history is foretold by the prophets, as God said to Amos the prophet:
“Surely the Lord God does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.” – Amos 3:7 [NKJV]
Well, my dear brothers and sisters, if there is any proof that these words spoken to Amos the prophet, or by Amos, are clearly evident, it is in regards to the calamitous events that took place in Jewish history over more than a thousand years.
The portion of Matot starts with a very important subject and a very serious one for all people, but especially for men. This is what the Torah says:
“Then Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, ‘This is the thing which the Lord has commanded: If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth. Or if a woman makes a vow to the Lord, and binds herself by some agreement while in her father’s house in her youth, and her father hears her vow and the agreement by which she has bound herself, and her father holds his peace, then all her vows shall stand, and every agreement with which she has bound herself shall stand. But if her father overrules her on the day that he hears, then none of her vows nor her agreements by which she has bound herself shall stand; and the Lord will release her, because her father overruled her. If indeed she takes a husband, while bound by her vows or by a rash utterance from her lips by which she bound herself, and her husband hears it, and makes no response to her on the day that he hears, then her vows shall stand, and her agreements by which she bound herself shall stand. But if her husband overrules her on the day that he hears it, he shall make void her vow which she took and what she uttered with her lips, by which she bound herself, and the Lord will release her.’” – Numbers 30:1–8 [NKJV]
This text in God’s word, is for me a flag and a warning that especially in our time must be clearly spoken and pointed out for all who say that they believe the Bible. You see, culture is a very strong power, but it is not always God’s power. Today the religious world, both Judaism and Christianity, is being dragged and follows the modern culture of the West. A culture that is contaminated by two very powerful events that sound good and sound right and sound just, the French Revolution, and the American Constitution. Yes, don’t be shocked, please!
The French Revolution is an important event in the history of modern politically-correct culture. The American Constitution is even a more important document because is has done so much good for the American people and for all the West. I would not want to live in a world that does not know the American Constitution, that was created by mostly Christian men.
The problem is not with the constitution, but with how people in the 21st century interpret it. Equality is equality before the law, before the court of law, not anywhere and everywhere. When this equality is taken out of the context it creates the need to have in public places one bathroom for both men and women, and for the LGBTQ society.
When the promise of the constitution of the USA promises “the pursuit of happiness” to all citizens, this would work in a society that has biblical values and a damper on selfishness. But, when in our modern society selfishness is the “bon ton” and the chief motivator both in the workplace and at home, in school and even in the church, then the combination of the promise of equality to all, equality without borders, reason, or rhyme, and the promise of “the pursuit of happiness”, this creates a cultural and moral atomic bomb that will explode society and destroy this wonderful country of the United States of America. With this, Western Civilization and the Judeo-Christian faith and culture will also be greatly damaged.
What are we committed to? Look at the text above from Numbers 3:1-8, look at other texts in God’s word, like 1 Timothy 2:8-11, does God hold on to what He revealed to our forefathers and messengers of God like Moses, the prophets, and Yeshua and the apostles, or have these words lost their power and authority?
The teaching of this parasha is clearly showing that the women are being protected by God and allowed to make mistakes, and have someone clear their mistakes and help them. I am envious of the women in the Torah and in the New Testament. When I make a promise that I can’t keep, I wish there was someone who could release me from that promise.
For me, it would be a blessing to have someone who could say, “OK Joe, you should have taken into account all the ramifications of your promises, but you didn’t, so let me take this burden off your shoulders, I am your father and I release you!” What a blessing that would be to have that opportunity to have someone who would help you in that way.
God bless you all who study the word of God with the faith of a child, and don’t try to cut corners, and square the round, and fit the word of God into our modern ungodly culture by ignoring it or twisting it. We all must remember that God is also a bookkeeper, and our actions and even our words are recorded there in His books. In the end scene, in the judgment of all flesh, these same books will be opened and our sentence will be read, and all will know why the just and righteous God has given us the sentence that we really deserve.
Culture is culture, but the word of God is the only standard and rule by which all flesh will be judged. The good for good, and the evil for the evil that they have done.
Joseph Shulam: Our Commitment to the Greater Community 
The reading of the Torah this Shabbat is called Matot-Masei (Numbers 30:2–36:13). The reading in all the synagogues around the world is the end of the book of Numbers. As we read the word of God and come into reading the book of Deuteronomy, it is already a sign that we are approaching the Feast of Trumpets – that is the end of the reading of the Torah.
In this portion of the Torah, we see that two and a half tribes of Israel didn’t want to cross the Jordan River and settle in the land of Canaan. Their reason where primarily economic. There was a war between Israel and Sihon king of Heshbon. Israel was given a victory over this Amorite Kingdom.
The tribes of Gad, Reuben, and the half-tribe of Manasseh liked that land and desired to stay there with their flocks. These lands were not a part of the original plan of God. This request was to stay in a land that was outside the land of Canaan. The leaders of these two and a half tribes come to Moses and put their request before Moses.
“The children of Gad and the children of Reuben came and spoke to Moses, to Eleazar the priest, and to the leaders of the congregation, saying, ‘Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Shebam, Nebo, and Beon, the country which the Lord defeated before the congregation of Israel, is a land for livestock, and your servants have livestock.’ Therefore, they said, ‘If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants as a possession. Do not take us over the Jordan.’” – Numbers 32:2-5 [NKJV]
Moses does not say to these tribes of Israel, “Sorry, brothers, this part of the land is not included in God’s promise to Abraham our father.” Moses says to them:
“But Moses said to the people of Gad and to the people of Reuben, ‘Shall your brothers go to the war while you sit here? Why will you discourage the heart of the people of Israel from going over into the land that the Lord has given them? Your fathers did this, when I sent them from Kadesh-barnea to see the land. For when they went up to the Valley of Eshcol and saw the land, they discouraged the heart of the people of Israel from going into the land that the Lord had given them.’” – Numbers 32:6–10 [ESV]
What was the concern of Moses? He was concerned that these tribes will not take a part in the cooperative effort to conquer the land of Canaan. He was worried that these tribes will settle in the good grazing land on the other side of the Jordan and abandon their brothers without taking a share in the war against the seven Canaanite nations.
For Moses, the most important part was not the land, but the unity of the nation of Israel. It was important for Moses, and I assume for God also, that the integrity of the nation will hold up, and that every one will take his share in the national burden and not run off leaving the work for the others.
What shall we learn today from this interesting story?
- From the previous chapters we learn that God is reasonable, and He can change the Torah (the law) when it is not longer applicable to the reality of the situation:
- God heard the complaints of the daughters of Zelophehad, that it is not fair for male children to inherit their father’s wealth, and God changed the Torah and made it possible for women in Israel to inherit their father when there are not male children in the family.
- Now with the tribes of Gad, Reuben and the half-tribe of Manasseh, God, through Moses, grants them their wish as long as they fulfill their obligation to the rest of the tribes of Israel.
- From the demands of Moses from these two and a half tribes we learn that the collective responsibility is greater than the private responsibility of the individual tribe. If I interpret this principle closer to home, the good of the community that we are a part of is greater than our own private desires or whims.
In conclusion of this point and bringing these principles home to our own situation today! We have a right as individuals and as communities to have our own agenda, our own opinions, and our private desire to see our particular “tribe” or “section” have the best possible for our group. However, we don’t have the privilege or right to abandon the whole of our nation or our faith community.
All of us have to see the broader picture and realize that we are a part of a much larger community, and our responsibility has to be graded from our smaller circles of fellowship, but it must not stop there. We must look for the good of our own smaller groups, but not forget that we are a part of the larger picture of all those who believe in one God and in Yeshua (Jesus) as our savior and redeemer.
If you look at the Christian denominations today, like the tribes of Israel in the ancient world, you might draw the right conclusion of what I am reaching out for. The unity of the body of the Messiah is something that we all must strive for and fight for, and the only way that it can be done is for all of us to change our own narrow-minded approach to the faith community, and broaden our tents to include and feel responsible for the good and welfare of those who might be out there in left field, but still hold the Bible to be the word of God, and Yeshua to be the Messiah, and the Holy Spirit to be alive and active in directing the disciples of Yeshua unto all truth.
There is no value to the restoration of the church if there is no sincere and honest drive for the unity of the body of the Messiah Yeshua. Everything that is restored by different groups pales in front of the need to unite to fight the last battle in the kingdom of God.
Joseph Shulam: Let Your Yes be Yes and Your No be No 
This week the reading in the synagogues around the world is called Matot. “Matot” is from the book of Numbers chapter 30:1-32:42, and the name is taken from the first verse of the reading:
“Then Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, “This is the thing which the Lord has commanded…’” – Numbers 30:1 [NKJV]
The word “mateh” means “staff” – the same word is used for the wooden staff of Moses, and also for the staff of the generals in the Israeli army. In the English translation of the verse it was rendered “the heads of the tribes.”
The first major topic that is dealt with in chapter 30 is the issue of what oath or vows a person speaks out of his mouth. In short, according to the text, a man is obligated to keep his vows, his oath to man or to God are obligatory and sacred. This is what the Lord says:
“If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.” – Numbers 30:2 [NKJV]
Now, the next issue that the Torah brings is not politically correct these days. There is a difference in obligation of a woman to her vow and her oath from that of a man. If a woman a daughter or a wife made a vow or promised a promise, and her father hears about it the same day, her father or her husband can annul the vow or the promise that the woman made.
You ought to read the text in Numbers 30 in order to understand better the details. There are of course many explanations why God made this difference between the obligation of a man and a woman. The bottom line is that it was done for the protection of a woman.
I personally wish that there were a way in which a man could have his oath to God and to man annulled. There is no way to annul man’s vow or promise before the Lord. For this very reason Yeshua gave this instruction to His disciples:
“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’. For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” – Matthew 5:33-37 [NKJV]
Yeshua is doing something very rabbinical in this teaching. He is building a fence around the commandment of God. God said in the Torah if you take make a vow or take an oath you must keep it. There is no way that you can be delivered from that oath or vow if you are a man.
Yeshua comes and says, don’t take an oath or make a vow at all. Just be faithful to your words and if you promise something, keep it, just say “Yes” or “No”. This is all that is necessary for people who are honest and have integrity. If more is required that means that there is no trust and no confidence in the faithfulness and trustworthiness of the person you are about to do business with. In this case it might better not to do business with people whom their words and promises are not trustworthy.
The second point that Yeshua brings is that most of the time that people make a vow or take an oath they hang their vow or oath by someone greater than themselves. People say: “By God, I will do this!” “By the Temple of God” “By Heaven…” In fact they could swear by their own mother or father if they wish, but it does not make their words worth more than just a simple “Yes” or “No” of a person who is honest and trustworthy.
This teaching of the Lord is often time ignored and “words” and promises often don’t mean much or carry a serious obligation in our days. I have had elders of a church who sat in a meeting with me and made promises, and when they went home and told their wives what they committed to, their wives changed their mind.
They called me back and said, “Joseph it would be better for you to forget what we decided in the elders meeting! It is not going to happen.” I said, “but you made this commitment and I have it recorded on tape.” The next day these same elders actually resolved the problem on a personal basis and not from the congregation. They were honest men, and they kept their promise unofficially without everyone, including their wives, knowing it.
As you can see from this Torah portion, Yeshua is like a good rabbi making a fence of protection around the commandment to keep us on the safe side, and prevent us from falling in disobedience to God’s command.
Yehuda Bachana: Family Comes Before Business 
Read the teaching below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.
This week’s Torah portion discusses the topic of war. How ironic and sad is it that we, the State of Israel, are once again entangled in territorial conflicts, especially in Gaza. History continues to repeat itself, and we find ourselves with the sword unsheathed, with a rifle in hand, with the intent of defending the citizens of Israel.
The security mindset of the State of Israel is based on one need: preserving its existence. The basic assumption is that Israel must not lose any war, because failure to stop any existential threats could mean the destruction of the Holy Land.
The Three Weeks of Bein HaMetzarim
Our parasha touches on the darker sides of warfare: killing, looting, assassinations, collective punishment – in short, a raging fire.
The three-week period of Bein HaMetzarim commences with the day that the walls of Jerusalem were sealed until the fast of Tisha B’Av, the day the Temple was destroyed. These days mark the times of tribulation and distress associated with the destruction of the First and Second Temples. According to tradition, this is a time when the laws of mourning apply, and they become more and more stringent as they approach Tisha B’Av.
On the three Sabbaths during this period of mourning, we read the three haftarot (weekly readings from the prophets) that deal with the tribulations and punishments that will come about due to the sins of the people. After Tisha B’Av, in the next seven Sabbaths, we read haftarot that have a theme of comfort and forgiveness. These days commemorate the destruction of the Temple and the exiles of the people of Israel.
This week’s portion, Parashat Matot, always falls during this period of Bein HaMetzarim. It emphasizes the contrast between promises, hope, our land and home, and between destruction, exile, and the hiding of God’s face from His people.
“Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. ‘Do you see all these things?’ he asked. ‘Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; everyone will be thrown down.’” – Matthew 24:1,2 [NIV]
God has Not Abandoned His People
In these weeks we begin to think and talk about Tisha B’Av, about the meaning of this day, and about the destruction. However, it is very difficult to internalize and mourn the destruction of Jerusalem, which happened thousands of years ago, when today around us grows and blooms a large, progressive, and strong city.
The lesson of the people of Israel for generations to come is that there is always hope; the hope for salvation, redemption, for returning home from afar, from dispersion to assembly, from punishment to forgiveness and consolation. Today we are waiting for His face to be revealed, for the day when the people of Israel will proclaim, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” and kneel before Yeshua the Messiah.
I believe with all my heart that God has not abandoned His people and that Yeshua continues to lead the people of Israel, even if in secret. Yeshua is the one who leads us and time again saves the State of Israel. The day will come when the veil will be removed and the people of Israel will accept Him as He is – as the Messiah, the King of Israel.
Why its Important to Remember the Past
There are numerous reasons why we are instructed to remember the past. First and foremost, in order to continue our existence and life, to always stand on our own, and to not allow anyone to hurt us.
Remembrance is essential to our continued existence as a people. It is necessary for the rehabilitation and building of a country in a physical and spiritual way. Likewise, remembrance is an important factor to bringing about change.
Having foresight doesn’t necessarily mean having the gift of prophecy. But rather it means the ability to look at the past and the present, and predict what will happen in the future.
Does the Torah Excuse Military Service?
Another hot topic in the national arena, a matter that threatens even to topple the government, is the issue of recruiting orthodox Jews (Haredim) into the Israeli military.
The Haredim, who want their young men to spend those potential military years studying the Torah instead, cry out: “They want to kill us, the Torah is our life, this is a battle of life and death.”
From where does a Torah student get the excuse not to serve in the army – because of the Torah? The argument that a Torah student should refuse to enlist in the IDF is a very weak one, because the Torah encourages and possibly even demands, military service. The book of Torah that we have been studying for the past few weeks, Numbers, begins with the requirement for a military census of the tribes:
“You and Aaron are to count according to their divisions all the men in Israel who are twenty years old or more and able to serve in the army.” – Numbers 1:3 [NIV]
In Deuteronomy, there is a list of reasons for exemption from military service, like the building of a new house, getting married, etc. It should be noted that studying Torah is not one of those reasons. (Deuteronomy 20:5-8)
In our parasha, the tribes of Gad and Reuben saw the richness and greenery beyond the Jordan River, and they asked permission from Moses to settle there instead of entering into the Promised Land. At first, Moses was angry with them because he sensed a hint of the previous rebellion of the spies. Moses attacked them with a rhetorical question:
“…Should your fellow Israelites go to war while you sit here?” – Numbers 32:6 [NIV]
Only after the tribes of Dan and Reuben promised to enlist in the spearhead force for the purpose of conquering the Promised Land, did Moses calm down and allow them to settle across the Jordan River.
Enlistment and Messianic Faith
From here I want to continue to the context of the Messianic faith. In regards to enlistment in the military, opinions may vary, however the majority of Messianic believers in Israel agree to enlist and to do so with pride. However, the question of military ethics arise from time to time.
Some believers encourage enlistment, but not to combat units, because Yeshua commands us to treat our enemy with love. According to them, Yeshua spoke against holding the sword, in other words, He spoke against the possession of arms.
For my part, I’ll say that precisely those God-fearing believing soldiers who serve in combat, right in the flash-points of military conflict, are the ones who can show love, caring, and mercy. They can do so through simple acts of kindness, which are expected as a part of military procedure.
Believing soldiers show how it is possible to maintain both security and humane treatment at the same time. I believe that the Messianic soldiers are the glory of the State of Israel.
What was Special about the Transjordan
Let us return to this week’s parasha and the Transjordan question of the aforementioned tribes of Reuben and Gad.
Members of the tribes of Reuben and Gad went to Moses and asked for the Transjordan – why did they want this? They possessed large herds of livestock and we read that the land across the Jordan was rich and green. They said the following:
“…We would like to build pens here for our livestock and cities for our women and children.” – Numbers 32:16b [NIV]
The emphasis here is on building business, the business of agriculture.
In the response that Moses gave, he switched up the order of things:
“Build cities for your women and children, and pens for your flocks…” – Numbers 32:24a [NIV]
Here the word “build” first and foremost refers to children and family, and after that comes the work.
Family Should be Our First Priority
In today’s world, we are dealing with the same story. We spend so much time at work that we hardly see our children. We often have no idea what’s going on in their schools – and we don’t have time to hear about the dreams, the hopes, and the ideas of our children. We come home dead tired every day, and we don’t have the energy for a leisurely conversation.
The tribes of Reuben and Gad had much livestock, and the land beyond the Jordan was pleasing to them. They asked permission from Moses to settle there, and during the negotiation, the words slipped out, “We’ll build pens and cowsheds for business, and we’ll also build the rest, like homes for our families.”
Career is for the family and not the other way around, we forget that what matters is slow, and can not compete with the urgent. Paying the bills, property tax, rent, or a mortgage may seem much more critical than playing with legos or a good conversation.
When we retire, it will be too late. If we do not invest in the family, that ship will sink! I do not recommend dropping out of the race of life, but rather to change the order of thinking, and to put the family back at the top of our priorities.