Parshas Matos - Actions and Thinking Ahead

1) The five pieces of jewelry of the Midyanite women

The Torah (31:50) talks about how the Jews went to fight against the Midyanim, and many of the men sinned, and they, therefore, had to bring a korban to Hashem, and the pasuk says the men had to bring a korban “asher matza kli zahav” that has the kli zahav, the women, and again this is hinting to the fact that maybe there were bad thoughts there “atzada v’tzama tabaas agil v’chumaz”.  There are five types of things for the women, and I’ll give a quick translation based on Rashi. Rashi says that “tzada” is an ankle bracelet or foot bracelet.  Tzamid is a hand bracelet.  Agil is a nose-ring.  Tabaas are finger rings.  And, Kumaz is a very private one.  So, the question that’s very interesting is that what are all these different types of jewelry? 

Rochel the wife of Rabbi Akiva was given Yerushalayim made of gold, but not eishes Rabban Gamliel

So there’s a very fascinating Gra in Shir Hashirim that explains and it’s based on a couple different places, but the gemara says that Rabbi Akiva promised his wife: When I have money I’m going to get you an “ir shel zahav”.  It was a very expensive piece of jewelry.  I’ll get you a Yerushalayim made out of gold, and she got it. Rabbi Gamliel’s wife saw it, and she was jealous of it. (We’ll explain what that means in a minute based on the gemara in Shabbos 59a.)  So, she said to her husband Rabban Gamliel: Why does Rochel get one, and I don’t get one?  And, Rabban Gamliel’s answer seems a little harsh, and we have to understand it, but the Gra explains it. He replied: You didn’t do the actions that she did.

Despite Rochel coming from a rich background, she stood by Rabbi Akiva in poverty to help him fulfill his potential

Gra explains it the following way. These were tzaddikim and tziddkanios.  There’s just so much to understand.  And, of course, you could say that every woman loves jewelery, even Rabbi Akiva’s wife, and even Rabbi Akiva’s wife, the truth is, the gemara in Kesubos 62b where it talks about Rabbi Akiva came back, her response was: “Yodei’ah tzaddik nefesh behamto” which Rashi and other mefarshim say that she was saying: Rabbi Akiva, my husband, knows my needs which is a very important thing that a wife should always know that her husband always knows what her needs are.  And, that definitely makes a lot of sense.  She came from richness, and she lived in abject poverty selling her hair in order to support her husband’s learning journey after her father wrote her off for marrying this am ha’aretz who was a kind and humble man. The gemara says she married him because she saw he was a kind and humble persona. She knew instinctively he could develop himself into someone great.  But, nonetheless, that’s part of the secret of his greatness, the years and years that he was gone, and that she supported him, the twelve and twelve years that he was gone learning, totalling 24 years. He came back after the first twelve years and she, basically, sent him back, probably without even talking to him because his learning was so important.  So, of course, we’re not Rabbi Akivas nowadays and we’re not Eishes Rabbi Akiva, Rochel’s either.

The jewelry discussed in Chazal represent spiritual qualities

Gra says like this that the two most famous pieces of jewelery that women are given in Chazal are the ones that go on our head or on her neck, and the Gra says that these celebrate spiritual qualities she has.  The ones on her head correspond to her being a baalas seichel which is on the head, and the ones on the neck, which is the body downward, after the head represents that she uses her body properly because her action that she brings out with her body are good, so Rabbi Akiva’s wife, her action that she used her body that she supported her husband’s learning, that made her deserve this great gift, and so when Rav Gamliel’s wife saw that she got it.  Rabban Gamliel wasn’t insulting her when he responded to her that you didn’t do the same actions she took.  He was explaining to her the reality.  The reality is that these chashuv rabbanim, they bought their wives jewelry based on their actions, and Hashem allowed them to get this jewelry based on their actions and what they deserved, as kind of a token for their good seichel or their good actions, and so that was what was being said there, and so when a person has these actions, and, obviously, it refers to physical ones in this case, but also it has a spiritual aspect because it says, “midov bad”.  The kohein would wear his begadim, and it’s your middos Chazal darshan that it’s your middos, and your middos represent the clothing that you get. 

Jewelry and clothing is a spiritual manifestation of that fact that we want to adorn our souls

It’s the same thing with these items mentioned in this pasuk we’re talking about each of these items correspond to different body parts and different aspects that the woman used b’kedusha v’tahara, and, so too, a woman should recognize in herself, and a man should as well, that if Hashem gives you a physical gift, whether it’s the beauty itself they have or whether it’s a gift of something to adorn that they like to wear on their body and feel good by wearing it.  The gemara says that clothing are called, “mecodosi”, those which, Rav Yochanan called them: Those which give me honor because a person could dress in a respectful way and it could bring out a big kiddush Hashem.  When you see a Rosh Yeshiva dressed in his impeccable coat and hat it’s an awe inspiring vision, or when you see someone that’s put together, and being mekadeish Sheim Shamayim by the way he or she looks that’s an amazing thing, and so when you look at all of these pieces of jewelry they are really a spiritual manifestation of the fact that we want to adorn our souls and that’s what we have to keep in mind when it comes to jewelry. 

When a person knows that they are going to go somewhere that their desires will be aroused, they must be very, very careful with their kedusha

The second thing on Parshas Matos is specifically on this Chazal.  There’s a very interesting Chazal in the gemara in Shabbos.  The gemara says: Why does the pasuk count the jewelry that is private and the jewelery that is on the outside.  And, the gemara in Shabbos 64b says: It’s because if a person allows himself to stare at even a finger of a woman inappropriately, it’s as if he stared at the most private area. What does that mean?  That means that a person needs to control himself.  If someone knows that whenever they go somewhere that they’re going to have desires, they need to take control of themselves, and if someone knows that when they’re going to go a certain place they’re going to want to eat something or buy something or partake of something they always need to be very, very careful with their kedusha. A person must think ahead and know that when taking small liberties, these poor choices often turn into large liberties.

Chazal teach based on the trop that a person must be aware that doing one thing may lead me to worse things

But, the Gra says that if you look: Why are Chazal darshaning this from the pasuk?  What does it mean?  The Gra, once again, learns from the trop. He explains that the trop in the pasuk actually breaks up the words in a way that the esnachta comes with the word tabaas, which is a ring on a woman’s finger, agil v’chumaz, and that’s a very private piece of jewelry, and the trop tells us to read it all together, and so that’s why the gemara was bothered.  Why are you putting all of these in the same breath.  But, it’s to tell us a very important lesson in life that a person has to have gedarim, and that a person needs to know that, hey, if I do this one thing, then it’s going to lead me to worse things. 

A person is obligated to make sure that he does not put himself in a testing situation

We always say that the Rebono Shel Olam, Chazal say that when a person does an aveira, a person doesn’t sin unless “nichnas bo ruach shtus”, he’s overcome by stupidity, by craziness.  So, if that’s the case, that a person only sins when he’s overcome with stupidity and craziness, then he could claim that he’s temporarily insane and therefore he’s not liable.  And, there’s what to debate about this question, but if you think about the question, you could argue that: No, a person is still liable.  But, there’s a better answer.  And, the answer is: Fine.  You’re not liable.  When someone stands at the edge of a cliff and he falls off, it’s not your fault, but what is your fault is why you got so close to the edge.  So, why did you put yourself in a situation where that ruach shtus would go there. 

A kleptomaniac must not walk into a store alone

I had a kid I worked with who was a shoplifter.  And, when he walked in a store with friends he was always fine because they would keep him in check, but when he walked by himself, that’s when he always shoplifted.  He always shoplifted.  He was very embarrassed of it.  So, whenever he went with someone else he wouldn’t do it because he was afraid he would get caught.  So, when he got caught, and the police called me, etc. and I had to come help him, so he said: I didn’t do anything wrong.  It’s an impulse, and I can’t control it.  And, it’s true.  He had kleptomania.  And, he obviously did not get any legal punishment except for having to pay back what he stole.  But, what I said to him was: we made up that you weren’t going to go into that store by yourself because you know what always happens.  And, he said: Well, yeah, but it was a quick run, and I thought it’d be fine, but I said: We agreed that you wouldn’t be fine.  So, you’re not responsible for what you did in the store, but you’re responsible for entering the store.  And, he really did get his life together, and really made sure that he did not, especially this one store that he had an affinity for, he really made sure to stay away from it.  Now, kleptomania is a very parve example because it doesn’t affect most people.  It’s very uncommon issue, and it’s also not anything too personal.  But, this Chazal is telling us something very personal.  It’s telling us that a person needs to always work on their kedusha, and see the end results.  See that when I go into that store I’m going to get into trouble, so therefore I’m going to stop myself, and make sure that I don’t even go into that store because I know that I get that ruach shtus, and that I am responsible for. 

Parshas Masei - Expanding Land

In the time of Mashiach all of the shuls and batei midrashos will be brought to Eretz Yisrael

A number of pesukim talk about the gevulos of Eretz Yisrael, the borders of Eretz Yisrael, and the Gra brings down a very fascinating pshat in a gemara that talks about the expanding borders of Eretz Yisrael.  So, the gemara Berachos 58b says that when you see the batei Yisrael that are settled you say, “Baruch matziv gevul almana".  Praised is G-d who extends the gevul of the woman who thought that she was forsaken, but yet Israel is expanding, and that’s an amazing thing.  So, the Gra says like this:  The gemara in Megillah 29 says that the batei knesios and batei midrashos in Chutz La’aretz, all the shuls and all the beis medrashes they will be established, they will be brought into Eretz Yisrael.  And, the Maharsha there says a phenomenal thing that basically, and some Rishonim even hint to this, that a shul in Chutz La’aretz and a beis medrash in Chutz La’aretz almost has some type of spiritual status of a shul in Eretz Yisrael which is a phenomenal thing.  

Says the Gra: What does this mean?  The ground where people learned and people davened over there how are you going to move that to Eretz Yisrael because if you put it into Eretz Yisrael proper, but Eretz Yisrael was already holy, so what are you doing by adding this item here.  You’re bringing eretz temei’a and downgrading the land.  But, the gemara says that the shuls will be brought to Eretz Yisrael.  But, the answer is, says the Gra: That’s what it’s saying is that the shuls, their land, will be the extension and the expansion of Eretz Yisrael.  So, it will be brought to Eretz Yisrael and outside of where Eretz Yisrael is, that will be expanded through the shuls and through the makom kadosh.

In the time of Mashiach Eretz Yisrael will include the whole world

Just to explain a little bit to zoom out for a second, and the Yalkut Reuveini brings down a Zohar.  This is not, necessarily, fully agreed upon, but it’s an interesting idea that makes a lot of sense.  And, it says like this: When Mashiach comes, so right now we look at there’s three splits in the world.  There’s Chutz La’aretz, then there’s Eretz Yisrael, and then there’s Yerushalayim which is the most holy.  So, this medrash, the Zohar seems to say that when Mashiach comes there won’t be any Chutz La’aretz anymore.  That the whole world will now become Eretz Yisrael, and the current Eretz Yisrael that whole thing will become Yerushalayim which is fascinating.  So, you might say: Well, that’s not fair.  Where’s everybody going to live?  Are we all going to live in Yerushalayim.  It give new meaning to “eretz tzvi” that it expands because it literally does expand to the entire Israel.  Whatever this means, these are kabbalistic things, but they’re fascinating to think about.  But, according to the Gra what it means is that all of the shuls will get together and that will turn into Eretz Yisrael.  That will be the first expansion of Eretz Yisrael.  And, that’s “zos tihiyeh lachem ha’aretz ligevuloseha saviv”.  That’s what the pasuk might be hinting to when it talks about the expanding boundries of Eretz Yisrael.

A person is only obligated in aliyah l’regel if he owns land

Another point about Eretz Yisrael also is in perek 36, pasuk 8 that “l’maan yirshu Bnei Yisrael ish nachalas Avosav”  Each person will inherit the portion of this father.  There’s a gemara in Pesachim 8b that Rav Ami says that anyone that has karka has to be oleh regel, and if he doesn’t have karka he doesn’t own property he doesn’t have to be oleh regel because the pesukim describe that Hashem says that your land “lo yachmod ish es artzecha”.  Noone will steal your land.  So, that’s the only people that are chayav in oleh regel.  The Chinuch and other mefarshim try to explain that it means that it’s a point of saying thank you to Hashem, and if you don’t have land then you don’t feel the hakaras hatov as much, but whatever the reason is, that’s the halacha.  So, Tosfos brings down that Rav Yehuda be beseira wasn’t oleh regel, so Tosfos says on Peschim 3b that it’s because he didn’t have any karka.  So, what does that mean?  How could Rav Yehuda ben Beseira, he was a Jew, every Jew owned ancestral land in Eretz Yisrael during the time of the Beis Hamikdash.  So, what does that mean he didn’t have any karaka? 

Eretz Yisrael is only given to those that left Egypt or came into Eretz Yisrael with Yehoshua

Gra says like this: The gemara in Bava Basra 117b says that Eretz Yisrael was given to those that went out of Egypt or those that came into Eretz Yisrael.  So, technically, if you found someone who didn’t go out of Egypt, and didn’t come into Eretz Yisrael with Yehoshua which is seemingly impossible, then they wouldn’t have any land.  Well, the gemara in Sanhedrin describes such a person.  The gemara in Sanhedrin 92 says that there were dead people that Yechezkeil brought back to life.  They didn’t go out of Mitzrayim because they left early and got killed because they didn’t follow Moshe, and they tried to go out early.  So, they didn’t come out of Mitzrayim.  And, they also didn’t come into land with the Jews, but the gemara says according to one opinion that Yechezkeil was mechayeh them, and at that point they came to Eretz Yisrael and they got married, and they had families.  And, Rav Yehuda ben Beseira gets up and he says: I am from their children.  I am from their descendents, and here are the teffillin that my grandfather wore.  And, these are the meisim that Yechezkeil brought up in the drybones haftarah.  Other mefarshim say that they dropped dead immediately, and it was only a small reserection.  How eilu v’eilu divrei Elokim Chayim works is a whole different discussion, but we will talk about it a different time, G-d willing.  So, these were the bnei Efraim that counted the keitz and left early.  So, therefore, that’s the pshat that Rav Yehuda ben Beseira actually did not own any land, and, therefore, he was patur to be oleh regel.  Very interesting ideas of chibuv ha’aretz.

So, thank you for joining me on this journey.  We just finished Matos and Masei, and b’ezras Hashem, Hashem should help us finish sefer Devarim which we are about to start next week.


Rabbi Yosef Tropper is a rabbi and psychotherapist. Subscribe at