Shabbat we read the portion of Matot and bless the month
of Menachem Av. The portion begins with the laws of
vows. Each portion of the week bears a special
connection to the time of year in which it is read.
Matot is always read during the three weeks in which we
mourn the destruction of the Temple and intensify our
prayers for the Redemption. As we enter the three weeks,
it is very important to fulfill all of our promises to
give charity and fulfill other Mitzvot. When we fulfill
our promises, Hashem will fulfill His promise to rebuild
the Temple. Furthermore, as these weeks are a time when
we need extra divine protection, it is wise to fulfill
our promises and vows.
portion continues with the war against the nation of
Midian. Although Midian was not among the lands that
comprised the land of Israel, the nation of Midian
schemed to arouse Hashem’s anger against the Jewish
people and succeeded in causing a plague. Hashem
commanded that each of the tribes send an equal number
of soldiers to fight Midian. The war was a miraculous
one, and none of the Jewish soldiers were killed.
the battles of the Jewish people that are described in
the Torah represent spiritual battles which each of us
must fight. The word Midian in Hebrew is related to the
Hebrew word Madon, which means strife. Midian represents
the negative force of strife that is fueled by jealousy.
When someone succeeds, we should be happy for them.
Ahavat Yisrael demands that we rejoice in our fellow
Jew’s success just as we rejoice in our own.
Unfortunately, our jealous nature results in just the
opposite. The battle against Midian is the battle
against strife. Hashem commanded that an equal number of
soldiers be sent from each tribe. This is because we
must all unite equally to fight divisiveness and attain
unity. If one feels I am the one who brings unity, and
you do less to bring unity, it only enhances the
problem. The destruction of the Temple was because of
strife. Therefore, in the three weeks we read about the
war against Midian, reminding us to stress unity and
word Matot means tribes. It is noteworthy that the Torah
varies from the word Shevatim, the regular word for
tribes, and uses the word Matot. Aside from meaning
tribe, a Shevet is a branch and a Mateh is a staff. A
branch is connected to the tree, where as a staff is cut
off from the tree. These three weeks we experience
ourselves cut off from the Temple and Yerushalayim, our
source of life. A branch bends, whereas a staff is hard.
In exile we must exhibit extra strength and fortitude,
not bending an inch from the path of Torah. The word
Mateh also comes from the word turn. These are days of
Teshuvah, when we can change ourselves for the better
and thereby change these days from sadness to joy. Moshe
redeemed the Jewish people with a Mateh. May we merit
the coming redemption in this week of Parshat Matot!
Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov,