Shabbat Shalom Weekly Parshat Masay: Matos - Masei 5769
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Masay(Numbers 33-36)

Matos - Masei 5769

GOOD MORNING! Can one Can one test the Almighty? Part of what I do in life is fundraising. One time I met with one of our supporters, a personal injury attorney, for lunch. At the end of the meal I asked him if he would please renew his support of $2,000 again this year. He told me that he could give $500, but was unable to give what he gave the previous year because of a whole list of reasons (which he itemized for me in great detail). I graciously thanked him for his continued support and then asked him, "What would it take for you to be able to give the other $1500 to continue your level of support from last year? He thought for a moment and then said, "I'd need to make $400,000 this year." And I said, "Great! We have a deal!" I then asked him, "By the way, what did you make last year?" He replied, "Under $200,000."

A ridiculous deal? Maybe. But when you are a fundraiser, you quickly learn to trust in God. Anything can happen. One sees miracles when he fundraises for a cause. My attitude is also colored by an old Jewish tale of a king whose best friend embezzled money from the treasury. The king was loathe to commit his old friend to death, though he knew that he had an obligation to the laws of the kingdom and respect for the law to do it. In order to delay the inevitable, the king decreed that his friend had one year to teach the king's horse to sing ... and if he failed, then and only then would he be put to death.

The embezzler was thrilled. The guard asked him, "Why are you so happy? Didn't you hear? You're condemned to death!" The embezzler replied, "What are you talking about? Many things can happen in a year. -the horse could die, the king could die, I could die. And who knows, I might even succeed to teach the horse to sing!" Such is the attitude of a fundraiser - trust in God and anything can happen!

During the year I made every effort to keep in contact with the donor. I called. I sent information and interesting books. He didn't take one call or return one message. He never responded to anything I sent. At the end of the year I wrote to enquire how his year was and the status of our deal. No answer to my letter. I figured that there was probably a good reason and perhaps eventually I'd find out.

March 15th of the next year his secretary called me requesting a lunch meeting with me for her boss on the 16th or the 17th. I figured he must have a personal problem and that he needs my help. Why else would he want to meet with me after ignoring me for a year?

On March 17th we had an enjoyable lunch together with lots of "small talk". Towards the end of lunch he asks, "Do you remember our deal?" "Yes," I replied. "Well, I didn't make $400,000," he continued, "I made over $500,000 (later he told me that he made $750,000!). And I asked myself, 'Was this a coincidence or was it because of my deal with the rabbi?' I decided that I wasn't going to pay you so quickly to see what would happen. It was the worst financial quarter of any year since I graduated from law school. So, I decided I would fulfill my word and pay my obligation. And I want you to know, rabbi, that since I made that decision my phone has been ringing off the hook and I have more business than I can handle." He then handed me the check.

I graciously accepted the check, extended my hand to shake his hand and thanked him for his company, for lunch and for his generous contribution. He said, "Well, I guess that's about it." I responded, "There's still one more question". He asked, "What? Will I do the deal again next year?" "No," I replied, "the question is ... 'How much money do you want to make next year?' " (And we made another deal!)

The Torah tells us that we are not to test God ("Do not test the Lord your God" - Deuteronomy 6:16) ... except in one thing - tzedakah (charity). The Torah states, "Tithe, you shall certainly tithe." The Talmud (Ta'anis 8b-9a) asks the meaning of the double expression ("ahsair t'ahsair"). Rabbi Yochanan teaches that there is a homiletic lesson based on a play of words (in the Hebrew): 'Tithe so that you will become wealthy!" Rabbi Yochanan then brought support from the prophet Malachi (3:10): "Bring all the tithes to the storehouse, so that there may be food in My House (for those who serve in the Holy Temple), and you may test Me now through this, says the Almighty, the Master of Legions, if I will not open for you windows of the sky, and pour blessings for you without limit."

Thus we see that one may test the Almighty - in one area only, that of tzedakah (charity). And not only that, but we see that the reward for testing in this area is that the Almighty will pour out upon you blessings without limit for what you give! And if you can't wait to try, go to AishDonate.com now!

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Torah Portion of the Week
Matos and Masei

Matos includes the laws of making and annulling vows, the surprise attack on Midian (the '67 War wasn't the Jewish people's first surprise attack!) in retribution for the devastation the Midianites wreaked upon the Jewish people, the purification after the war of people and vessels, dedicating a portion of the spoils to the communal good (perhaps the first Federation campaign), the request of the tribes of Reuben and Gad for their portion of land to be east of the Jordan river (yes, Trans-Jordan/Jordan is also part of the Biblical land of Israel). Moshe objects to the request because he thinks the tribes will not take part in the conquering of the land of Israel; the tribes clarify that they will be the advance troops in the attack and thus receive permission.

Masei includes the complete list of journeys in the desert (the name of each stop hints at a deeper meaning, a lesson learned there). God commands to drive out the land's inhabitants, to destroy their idols and to divide the land by a lottery system. God establishes the borders of the Land of Israel. New leadership is appointed, cities of the Levites and Cities of Refuge (where an accidental murderer may seek asylum) are designated. Lastly, the laws are set forth regarding accidental and willful murder as well as inheritance laws only for that generation regarding property of a couple where each came from a different tribe.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

In the list of travels through the desert, the Torah states:

"And they traveled from Kivrot Hata'avah" (Number 33:17).

As mentioned above, the names of the places hint at a deeper meaning, a lesson learned there. What do we learn from the name Kivrot Hata'avah?

Rabbi Yitzchok of Vorki tells us that the Torah is hinting to us here to keep a distance from desires. The words Kivrot Hata'avah mean "burial place of desires." A person needs to be on guard that his desires do not cause him an early burial. How can one overcome his desires? Says Rabbi Yitzchok, "by focusing on the words 'they traveled' in the desert and remembering that we, too, are only traveling temporarily in this world on our path to the next world. Therefore, we should not give in to immediate temporal desires which can destroy our lives in this world and impact our life in the world to come."

The goal: be in control of your desires and do not allow your desires to control you!

* * *

PIRKEI AVOT 1:13

Who is mighty? He who controls his desires, as it is written (Proverbs 16:32): "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and the master of his passions is greater than one who captures a city."
--  Ben Zoma

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QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

You can't take it with you ...
but you can send it ahead!

 

 
With Special Thanks to

David & Marilyn Zinn

 

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Kalman Packouz

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Copyright Rabbi Kalman Packouz 2009

Published: July 15, 2009

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