January 20, 2019

Rosner’s Torah-Talk: Parashat Matot-Masei with Rabbi Jonathan Roos

Our guest today is Rabbi Jonathan Roos, leader of the Temple Sinai congregation in Washington, DC. Rabbi Roos was ordained as a rabbi from the Hebrew Union College in 2002. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with honors in History and received a Master's degree in American History from the University of Maryland at College Park. He is a member of the CCAR and previously served congregations in Tinton Falls, New Jersey and Albany, New York. He has served on various boards and leadership groups including the Bet Shraga Hebrew Academy, STAR PEER's second rabbinic cohort, The Jewish Federation of Monmouth County Allocations Committee, the CCAR Responsa Committee and more.

This Week's Torah portion – Parashat Matot-Masei (Numbers 30:2-36:13) – begins with Moses presenting the heads of the tribes with rules concerning the annulment of vows. War is waged against Midian and the Torah lists the different spoils Israel took hold of in their victory and describes how they are distributed. The tribes of Gad, Reuben and half of Menashe ask Moses for the territory East of the Jordan as their portion of the promised land, and Moses eventually agrees on the condition that they first help conquering the west part West of the Jordan. The boundaries of the Promised Land are stated, and cities of refuge are designated as havens for people who commit inadvertent murder. The portion ends with the story of the daughters of Tzelafchad marrying men of their own tribe (Menashe) in order to keep the estate which they inherited from their father within their own tribe. Our discussion focuses on the decision by the two and a half tribes to stay across the Jordan and the lessons about priorities included therein.

Our past discussions of Parashat Matot-Masei:

Rabbi Uri Regev on the Torah’s attitude toward the difference between vows made by men and women

Rabbi Steven Lindeman on the need to balance between our feelings about Israel's right to particular sections of the land and the well-being of our children