Weekly Parashah

Parashah Mattot-Masei

28 Tammuz 5777 / July 22, 2017
By Rabbi Kirk Gliebe

 

This Week’s Readings:
Torah:
Numbers 30:2-36:13

Haftarah: Jeremiah 2:4-28; 3:4
Brit Chadashah:  Romans 12:1-5

 

 

The Road Not Taken BY ROBERT FROST

 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 

Do you remember how you got to where you are today? What the journey was like, the decisions you had to make, the difficulties at times along the way? Life is a series of choices we make, but thankfully not alone. Take a moment and remember the many people who helped you to get to where you are right now: parents, teachers, mentors and friends. The ones you listened to, and the ones you didn’t.  An effective life is a life lived in appreciation; appreciation of the journey as well as an appreciation for those who helped us get to where we are.

 

It also takes a lot of diligent planning for our life’s journey if we hope to be effective, plans that focus on the physical, personal, financial – and most importantly the spiritual. It’s often my practice when meeting with young adults to ask them about the plans they have for their lives, their 1, 5 and 15 year goals. Recently I met with a successful young adult and I asked him about his life plans. He laid out to me a very well thought out and sound plan for his life covering his career and finances. After a few minutes of discussion, I asked him about his plans for his spiritual growth and service for G-d. He admitted that he really hadn’t thought about this as much. I encouraged him to be sure that he had at least as well a thought out plan for his spiritual growth and usefulness for G-d as for his secular life. We must always remember that our life’s journey involves all of our being, especially our spiritual life.

 

The Torah portion is a double portion, which means that it is very long, covering the last seven chapters of the book of Numbers. A short overview by chapter reveals the following:

  • Chapter 30 deals with the vows of young women and wives, and how those vows can be nullified by a father or husband
  • Chapter 31 relates the judgement of Midian and how the Israelites wiped them out and divided the spoil without losing a single soldier
  • Chapter explains how Reuben, Gad and the Half tribe of Manasseh ended up settling on the East Bank of the Jordan while still maintain their commitment to conquer Canaan
  • Chapter 33 provides a review of the Exodus Journey beginning with the morning right after the first Passover and leading right up to their present position just on the east side of the Jordan River across from Jericho
  • Chapter 34 clarifies the borders and eventual Tribal allotment of the Land of Canaan
  • Chapter 35 explains how the Levites were to receive their inheritance of cities in the Land and directions regarding how the cities of refuge were to function
  • Chapter 36 relates how the daughters of Zelophehad were instructed to marry within their tribe, and how this was to be done by all the members of the Tribes.

 

At first glance this section might seem disjointed and random, but in taking a closer look one can see that this portion provides through this historical review a summary statement about the journey of life: life is all about decisions and consequences. At first this might seem a bit bleak, since too often we tend to make poor decisions that can lead to bad consequences, yet with a little deeper consideration this text should encourage us with the knowledge that if we will appreciate and seek out G-d’s leading in our life’s journey, then blessing and success is sure to follow. We show our appreciation for G-d when we give Him credit for the successes of our lives.

 

The Haftarah portion is a challenge from G-d through Jeremiah to all Israel rebuking them for their complete lack of appreciation for all that G-d had done for them. In not appreciating what G-d had done for them, they had been led astray to seek after other gods and to pursue other things that were worthless, making themselves worthless as a result. Verse 13 sums it up well, “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me – the spring of living water – and they dug their own cisterns – cracked cisterns that hold no water.” You must understand that drinking water from a spring is always better than water from a cistern. It’s the difference between drinking water from a bottle of Perrier and water from a mud puddle. G-d is rebuking Israel from turning from Him, and all the blessing that comes from knowing and following Him, to pursing the priorities, pleasures and values of the world, which will not satisfy and ultimately will lead to death spiritually and physically. We show our appreciation for G-d when we recognize Him as the one who gives true meaning and value to our lives.

 

The Brit Chadashah portion calls us to recognize that out of appreciation for what G-d has done for us, we must be willing to sacrificially live out our life’s journey for Him and his purposes above all the other values and priorities of our life. In our day and age as Americans this is completely out of step with both our secular and religious society. In fact today there seems to be very little difference in the values, morals and priorities of those who profess faith in G-d and those who don’t. How can this be the case? It’s because too many of us who profess to be believers in G-d no longer appreciate our own personal need to live lives of separation from the world and transformation through the Spirit of G-d, and so because of this we as “religious people” slip easily into conformity to the values and priorities of the secular world. Are your values, your moral and ethical standards, conformed to the values of the world, or do they reflect G-d’s values as taught within the Scriptures? Do the priorities of your life, the activities that demand your time and attention, reflect the priorities taught about within the Scriptures? As the Haftarah taught us, seeking anything for our lives besides G-d and his blessing for our lives, will leave us empty and ultimately worthless. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan and work toward a successful life in our education, careers and finances, but that we must prioritize our spiritual life above ALL of these other things. When we choose to live our lives sacrificially for G-d as He wants us to, than we will understand our purpose and meaning and value, but in and through G-d! We understand and show our appreciation for G-d when we live first and only as He wants us to live.

 

By the way, a real indicator of appreciation is passion. Do you appreciate G-d? If so you probably love G-d. Do you love G-d? If so you probably are obviously passionate for G-d. But I believe without passion for G-d there can be no true love of G-d, and without love for G-d there can be no appreciation of G-d. If there is no appreciation for God than one can’t have a true relationship with G-d, and without a true relationship with G-d today on this earth, then there can be no expectation of a relationship with G-d in eternity. The consequence of this absence of a relationship with G-d is an eternity separated from G-d in a place called Hell!

 

Let G-d know you appreciate Him today. How? Spend some time today giving G-d credit for three things that you know he has blessed you with in your life’s journey. Thank him and praise him for this with emotion and passion! Also spend some time today giving G-d authority over three areas in your life that you know you have not been living in a sacrificial way before him. Don't over think it. Just do it! If we really want to be effective in our lives as followers of the   G-d of Israel and the Messiah of Israel Yeshua, we need to express our appreciation to G-d for all that he has done for us to help get us to where we are today. And don’t worry, as Robert Frost has stated, there are many more decisions and opportunities that G-d has planned for you tomorrow!

 

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.