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Parshat Matot-Masei - Questions for Self Study

Questions for the 'Shabbat Table'
Questions for Shiur Preparation
Questions on Parshanut

Part I - Questions for the 'Shabbat Table'
1. Based on the opening pasuk of the story of Bnei Gad and Reuven (see 32:1), explain why this parshia follows immediately after the story of the war against Midyan (i.e. chapter 31).
[In your answer, be sure to relate to 31:32.]

2. Review 34:16-29.
Attempt to give a title to this parshia, and explain how it relates to the parshiot that precede it and follow it.
In what way is the parshia similar to the opening parshia concerning the "meraglim" in the beginning of Parshat Shlach (see 13:1-18)?
In what way is it different?
Which tribes are missing from the list in 34:16-29!?
Can you explain why?
[The answer is very simple!]
Next, review those psukim carefully once again, noting which tribal leader are not referred to as Nasi.
Can you explain why?
[The answer is very difficult, and if do find one, please tell me!]

3. Can you explain the logic of Am Yisrael having twelve independent tribes?
Would it not have been better for Am Yisrael to be simply one united nation, i.e. without the institution of tribes at all?
[Would this not enhance the unity of Am Yisrael?]
If you do find value to this concept of 12 tribes, attempt to relate it to the overall purpose of Am Yisrael to become a model nation before all nations.
Can your answer help explain why in Sefer Bamidbar we find so many parshiot that relate to twelve tribes and their leaders [including Parshat Matot itself!]?

4. What is the purpose of separating shevet Levi?
Is their sole responsibility simply to work in the Mishkan/Mikdash?
If so, why are their cities scattered among all twelve tribes (see 35:1-8)?
If not, what else are they supposed to do all day?
Relate to Devarim 17:8-11, 33:8-11!
How are they supposed to 'make a living' if they only have cities, but no land to cultivate?

5. God's command to Bnei Yisrael concerning how to apportion the land appears to contain an internal contradiction.
On the one hand, it states:

"You shall apportion the land among yourselves... with larger groups increase the share, with smaller groups reduce the share..." (see Bamidbar 26:54-55)
This implies that the basis for the apportion the size of each tribe and/or family. Yet, the next pasuk seems to imply exactly the opposite:
"Each portion shall be assigned by lot, whether for larger or smaller groups." (see 26:56)
In Parshat Masei, this ambiguous command is repeated, but in shorter form:
"You shall apportion the land by lots, clan by clan: with larger groups increase the share, with smaller groups reduce the share. Wherever the lot falls for anyone, that shall be his..." (33:54)
So 'tachlis,' how is the land supposed to be apportioned?
Can you resolve this apparent contradiction?
In your answer, attempt to differentiate between the geographical area that each tribe is to receive, and how that area will be apportioned internally by each tribe according to family clans.
Relate also to how the land was actually divided according to tribes during the time of Yehoshua.
After you arrive at your conclusion (or if you give up), see Ramban on 26:54.
See also Rashi and Sforno.
[The Ramban is very long, but his basic point can be understood from the first 10 or 15 lines. This topic is also discussed at length in Baba Batra 117b.]

Part II - Questions for Preparation (for weekly shiur)
1. In Parshat Masei (see 34:1-15), we find the precise borders of Eretz Canaan.
Note the eastern border.
Does it include Transjordan?

In Parshat Matot, Moshe agrees to consider Transjordan as the official inheritance of Gad and Reuven (on the condition that they first help in the conquest of Eretz Canaan).
If this area is outside the above mentioned borders, does Moshe's decision make sense?
[If Transjordan is part of the holyland, then it should be within the official borders! If not, how can it be considered an inheritance of one of the tribes?] Did you ever notice this problem before?
If so, how did you resolve it?

Is the Negev part of the Land of Israel? If so, why do Bnei Yisrael pass through it during their journey through the desert?

2. In Moshe's initial response to the request of Bnei Gad and Reuven, he compares them to the "meraglim."
Later, he agrees to their demands.
What causes Moshe's change in attitude?
Do Bnei Gad and Reuven relate in their response to Moshe's initial accusation?
If so, how?
Does Chumash explain why?
If so, where?
In your opinion, why do you think Moshe finally agreed?

3. Scan through Sefer Breishit noting the various instances where God promises the Promised Land to the Avot.
[To save you some time, see Breishit 12:7, 13:14-17, 15:18, 17:7-8, 22:17-18, 26:2- 5, 28:3-4, 28:13-14, 35:11-12, 46:1-4, 48:4 and 21.]
From these sources, can you pinpoint the precise borders?
[See also Breishit 10:19 in relation to 17:7-8.]

Do any of these borders contradict one another?
Be sure to relate to Breishit 15:18-20 [Brit Bein Ha'btarim] in comparison to Breishit 17:7-8 [Brit Milah].

4. When one says that the land is "holy," what does this imply?
What "halachot" does this "kedusha" (holiness) affect?
Are you aware of any halachot relating to this "kedusha" that depend on who is sovereign in the Land?
If so, what are they, and why?
[See Rambam Hilchot Trumot 1:1-5. See also 1:26]

Now that you've prepared, go to the shiur.

Part III - Parshanut
1. Read the opening pasuk in Parshat Matot (30:2).
In comparison to all other introductions in Chumash to a set of mitzvot, how is this introduction unique?
Note which mforshim are bothered by this question!
[Are there any that weren't?]

2. Before we continue, note that the division of the Bible according to chapters (a non-Jewish tradition) begins this chapter with the final pasuk of Parshat Pinchas [see 30:1]!
Note the division according to parshiot (a Jewish tradition) that contradicts this division.
The new parsha begins in 30:2!
According to simple "pshat," which division is correct?
Can you think of any reason at all why this chapter should begin in 30:1?
How does this pasuk (30:1) relate to chapter 29?
[Use 28:2 (in relation to 30:1) to prove that Chazal are correct!]
In your opinion, could this 'mistake' in the division of chapters relate to the problem raised in question #1 (above)?

3. This parsha (the laws of nedarim) is unique for it is given specifically to the tribal leaders [you should have noted this in question #1].
In your opinion, was this parsha given only to the tribal leaders (and not to the people)?
If so, why shouldn't the people know these laws?
If not, i.e. the laws were intended for everyone, how are we suppose to understand this pasuk?

See Rashi 30:2.
How does he answer this question?
There are two stages in Rashi's answer; explain each stage.
Rashi refers to Shmot 34:31-32.
Review from 34:27-35.
Which specific mitzvot did Moshe convey to Bnei Yisrael when he came down from Har Sinai with the second luchot?
[See mforshim there also.]
Why is this source key to Rashi's pirush?

Now, see Ramban on 30:2.
How does he answer this question?
In what manner is his approach totally different than Rashi's?

4. Many mforshim raise a more basic problem, i.e. what are the laws of nedarim (vows) doing here at all?
Before you see the mforshim inside, attempt to answer the following questions:

    1) How does this parsha (the laws of nedarim) relate to the preceding parsha, i.e. the laws of T'midim u'Musafim (chapters 28-29)?
    [Are vows mentioned?]
    2) How does this parsha relate to the parshiot that follow, i.e. "milchemet Midyan" and "bnei Gad and Reuven?"
    [Do any of these parshiot contain vows?]
See Rashbam on 30:2.
How does he answer this question?
Does he also relate to question #3?
If so, what is his answer?

See Ibn Ezra on 30:2.
How would the Ibn Ezra answer the above question?
Note that Ibn Ezra's pirush implies that this parsha of nedarim was first given to Bnei Yisrael at this time (i.e. during the 40th year in the desert, after the war against Midyan).
Would any of the other mforshim agree with this assumption?
Explain why or why not?
If Ibn Ezra is correct, why isn't this parsha written after chapter 32?
How does he deal with this problem in his pirush?
[See also Chizkuni on 30:2.]

See Sforno on 30:2.
How does Sforno connect our parsha to the mitzvot that were given on Har Sinai?
Would Sforno agree with Ibn Ezra in regard to when this parsha was first given?

5. Read 30:17 carefully.
Which of the above pirushim does this pasuk support?
Which pirush does it appear to contradict?

6. Note the various times in Chumash where the phrase "zeh ha'davar" is used [in addition to Bamidbar 30:2]:

    By the manna, in Shmot 16:16,32;
    By the Mishkan - 35:4;
    By the miluim, in Vayikra 8:5;
    On Yom HaShmini, Vayikra 9:6;
    And by "shchutei chutz" in Vayikra 17:2.
[See also Bamidbar 36:6]
Which of these instances is preceded by God instructing Moshe beforehand?
Which cases are not?
Now, carefully read the opening ten lines of Ramban on 30:2.
Why does he compare our pasuk (30:2) davka to Vayikra 17:2?
How does he relate to all of the other cases mentioned above?
[As you read this Ramban, note how thorough and concise this pirush is!]