And so the journey comes
to an end. Parshat Masei gives an overview of our wanderings from the moment we
were freed from Egypt to the time when we stood on the verge of entering the
The parsha emphasizes that
G-d not only freed us from Egypt , but also executed judgment on the Egyptian
gods. This was a demonstration of G-d’s condemnation of the illegitimacy of
“gods” who would countenance and justify endless dehumanizing
The parsha then talks
about the boundaries of the nation and the various tribes. Another section
mandates the Levitical cities, home to the members of the tribe of Levi who,
unlike other Israelites, will not have a permanent geographical inheritance. The
discussion of the Levitical cities leads in turn to a discussion of the cities
of refuge, to which the person guilty of involuntary manslaughter could
All of these are serious
national concerns, and it would not have been surprising if Bamidbar concluded
with matters of such general import; or else in an impassioned flourish of
So it is surprising that
at the very last moment, at the “stirring conclusion," Bamidbar diverts our
attention from “macro” issues and focuses instead on a fine, but rather narrow,
point of law: how land, normally distributed to male heirs, is to be apportioned
when the sole heirs are daughters.
The final disposition of
this specific point of law is less important than the general principle running
throughout our parsha, indeed throughout the book of Bamidbar, and in fact
throughout the Torah as a whole: The Jewish people must bring its full strength
to bear on both the big national issues and the small personal ones. Grappling
with both the big and the small is an essential part of who we are as
The message of the Torah
has direct relevance to us today. Obviously, in this unsettled time, we have to
address the big issues that affect us as a nation: borders, boycotts, budget
talks, and so forth.
These matter to the
welfare of our people, and our people matters. But individual people matter, too.
because of legal technicalities, or because of poverty, or because of health, or
because of age, or because of ecological disaster, or because of whatever
calamities can arise in this as-yet-imperfect world, we have an obligation to
help our brothers and sisters in need.
Our parsha ends as it does
as a reminder to us to keep our eyes on the prize: love.
Love for our
Love for all our
Love for all people.
Rabbi Robert L. Wolkoff
is the spiritual leader of Congregation B’nai Tikvah,
Federations of North America Rabbinic
Weinblatt Vice Chair:
Rabbi Rabbi Les
Bronstein Vice Chair: Rabbi Fred Klein
Vice Chair: Rabbi Larry
Vice Chair: Rabbi Steve Lindeman
President: Rabbi Steven E.
Foster Honorary Chair: Rabbi Matthew H.
Simon Director of the Rabbinic Cabinet: Rabbi Gerald
The opinions expressed in Mekor Chaim articles are solely
of the author and do not reflect any official position of Jewish
Federations of North America or the Rabbinic Cabinet.
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