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Parashat Matot-Massei

Dedicated in honor of my wife Ceryse by Eddie Mizrahi

Parashat Matot-Massei

This Parasha begins by discussing Nedarim. The closest word to describe a Neder is a vow. When someone makes a Neder it becomes as binding as a Commandment of the Torah, to the point where if the Neder is violated, there is a court-imposed penalty. For instance, if a person takes a Neder to abstain from drinking wine, the wine now takes on the same status as eating pork. The vow’s prohibition can be considered as having, for that person, a new Halachic status.

The Parasha begins: "Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes of Bnei Yisrael, saying: This is the thing that Hashem has commanded: If a man makes a vow to Hashem or swears an oath to establish a prohibition upon himself, he shall not desecrate his word, according to whatever comes from his mouth, he shall do." Why does it say that Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes? The answer is that they have to set an example for the people. We also learn from this that Nedarim are a very serious matter and that we cannot take them lightly. The closest we come to a Neder today is when we make a donation pledge. Many times those pledges are made when we have an Aliyah and are standing by the Sefer Torah. When we perform a Mitzvah it is said that we create an angel, and that angel will advocate for us in Shamayim. So when we make a pledge to give a donation, we are creating half an angel, and that angel is not fully completed until we pay what we promised. Our Rabbis teach us that these half-completed angels cannot help us and in fact, they can actually hurt us. We must make it our business to always honor our pledges, thereby keeping our Nedariim. In order to protect ourselves, it is recommended that we say “Bli neder” when we make a pledge; which means, without a vow. We should be in the practice of saying “Bli neder” after pledging to make a donation or making any promise that could be considered a Neder.

The Parasha then discusses Nedarim in terms of a man’s wife or his daughter under twelve. In Passuk 6 it states: "But if her father restrained her on the day of his hearing, all her vows or prohibitions that she established upon herself shall not stand; Hashem will forgive her, for her father had restrained her." Rashi comments that this refers to a girl who made a Neder but didn’t know that her father had revoked it. Then she purposely violated the Neder. Technically she didn’t sin because there was no Neder at the time, since her father had revoked it, but she still requires forgiveness and atonement. The Rabbis compare this to a person who meant to eat unkosher food. For example, if someone had a desire to eat a hot dog from a street vendor who is not known to sell kosher food, but by chance the hot dog he ate was actually kosher, no sin was committed. Even though the meat was kosher, and no sin was committed, he still would need atonement for his intention to sin.

Later in the Parasha, in Perek 32, Passuk 16, we are told that the descendants of Gad and Reuven said to Moshe that before going to war, “We will build pens for the flocks of sheep and cities for our small children." The phrasing suggests that they are giving priority to their flocks over their children. It is asked, Why would they do this? In Passuk 24, Moshe criticizes them by reversing the order of the words they used:"Build for yourself cities for your small children and pens for your flock, and what has come from your mouth shall you do."

We also may be guilty of the same thing with our own children. At the time of the Pidyon Haben the Kohen will ask the father "Do you want the money or your son?" Naturally, it is not a question that is meant to indicate an actual real-life choice, and the Kohen would refuse to redeem the child if the father said he preferred the money. The question is intended to send a message to the father about his duties as a parent and how he must always put his child first.

But as children grow up, many fathers work very hard and don’t give the proper time to their children; and the implication could be drawn that they are putting their money ahead of their children. Many children today lack a good relationship with their parents because their parents are busy all day at work. Then when the parents come home, they bring their work with them and spend their free time on emails and their cell phones. The children grow up with a lack of the proper guidance and attention. They then look elsewhere for that missing attention like on the streets which can only lead them to trouble!

There’s a story of a teacher who was marking her students’ homework one night after dinner while her husband was sitting nearby, playing a game on his cell phone. Suddenly, tears welled up in her eyes. “Why are you crying my dear?” her husband asked. “Yesterday I gave my class a writing assignment called, ‘My Wish’” I told him. “OK, and what’s making you cry?” he asked again, keeping one eye on his game. “The last paper moved me so much it made me cry.” “What about it made you cry?” “Listen, I’ll read it to you,” I replied, wiping my eyes. “My parents love their smartphones very much. The care about their smartphones so much that sometimes they forget to care about me. When my father comes home from work tired, he has time for his smartphone but not for me. When my parents are doing some important work and their phones rings, they will answer it right away, but they will not answer me…even when I’m crying. they play games on their phones, but not with me. When they are talking to someone on their phones, they never listen to me, even if I’m telling them something important. So my wish is to become a smartphone.” Now it was her husband who was wiping his eyes. “Who wrote this?” he asked quietly. I looked up at him and said… “Our son.”

Let us not sacrifice our family and relationships over the pursuit of material things. Smartphones are here to make our lives easier but not to control us, make us addicted and unsociable. It’s not too late to return to a real family life, back to the old days when we didn’t have the Internet and computer games. Put down that phone for a while. Talk to your children your spouse or your friends. Set a good example for your children. Whatever you do, they will also do. Talk to the people you love and make sure they feel loved. And you can receive love from them too.

Can your phone give you Love?

As Rabbi Mendel Kalmenson tells us, “In addition to their advantage over adults in terms of spiritual innocence and purity, and the resulting added power of their prayer, in Jewish tradition children are seen to have a greater spiritual sensitivity as well.” It is therefore even more of a missed opportunity not to take advantage of a child’s openness to learning and teach them good values.

Our children didn’t ask to be brought into a world with so many difficulties, and now that they are ours, we must provide them with the best opportunities to achieve growth and happiness. We must teach them discipline and give them good self-esteem by praising their accomplishments so that they will grow to be respectful and upstanding contributors to society, Beezrat Hashem! Amen!

May we all be so very cognizant of the words that we say so that we don’t make any Nedarim that we cannot keep. We should always remember to pay our donations or at least say “Bli neder” when making a donation so we don’t create half-angels. May we also know our priorities by putting our children’s best interests above our business interests, because the time that we invest in our children is an investment that is everlasting as opposed to our business matters which is only temporary.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey

Leiluiy Nishmat....

Eliyahu Ben Rachel Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher

Sarah Bat Chanah Esther Bat Sarah

Shulamit Bat Helaina Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana

Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther Rafael Ben Miriam

Rav Haim Ben Rivka Moshe Ben Mazal

Yitzchak Ben Adele Avraham Ben Mazal

Chanah Bat Esthe Ovadia Ben Esther

Moshe Ben Garaz Rahamim Ben Mazal

Avraham Ben Garaz Avraham Ben Mazal

Yaakov Ben Rachel Avraham Ben Kami

Meir Ben Latifa Moshe Ben Yael

Malka Bat Garaz Mordechai Ben Rachel

Yaakov Ben Leah

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