Thursday, July 12, 2018

Parsha for Women by Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi

Mattot-Mas’eiYom Chamishi, Tamuz 29, 5778 (July 12, 2018) #64  
for the 

Who’s in Charge Here?

Parashot Mattot-Mas’ei seem to have no connection to when we read them. Why now, at Rosh Chodesh Av, do I need to read about vows and oaths, about Hashem’s war against Midian, about the travels of the Israelites, and about cities of refuge for killers? These are the subject of this week’s parasha – and why should I care? The answer is in the common denominator of these subjects: 

ministerial responsibility.

For example, in teaching releases from vows, Moshe addresses the heads of the tribes: “You’re responsible!” In the war against Midian, Moshe addresses the commanders and says: “You’re responsible!” In the conquest of the land, Moshe addresses the descendants of Reuven and Gad, the wealthiest tribes, and reminds them: “You’re responsible – take responsibility!” And the perpetrator of an accidental homicide, who must flee to a city of refuge, remains there until the death of the Kohen Gadol – 

what’s the connection? “You have to be responsible,” Rashi understands this as addressing the Kohen Gadol. “You’re responsible for ensuring that in your generation there will be no bloodshed.”1

In other words: you have responsibility. The results are on your shoulders.

How is that connected to this time of year? Av is the month of the av the father! and his responsibility.

Parashat Mattot opens with a father who cancels his daughter’s vows. She takes a vow, putting herself into a
1 Bemidbar 35:25 and Rashi ad loc.
situation that’s not right for her now, and you, Abba, have to take responsibility for your daughter.

There’s also such a moving verse at the end of the ֵאֶּלהַהֻחִּקיםֲאֶּשרִּצָּוהה'ֶּאתמֶֹּשהֵביןִּאישְלִּאְשתֹו,“:section These are the statutes ֵבין ָּאב ְל ִּבת ֹו ִּב ְנ ֻע ֶּרי ָּה ֵבית ָּא ִּבי ָּה that Hashem commanded Moshe and Bnei Yisrael between a man and his wife, between a father and his daughter, during her youth in his home.”2

Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzeira says: you’re like a little girl to your Father. During Av a Jewish woman must turn to Hashem and say, “Ribbono Shel Olam, maybe I’ve sinned; I might have ruined my life with my own hands” (so many girls say that to me!).
Well... oK, little girl. Abba’s here. Tell Him this: “Abba, You’re responsible now. It could be that I’ve destroyed all sorts of really important values. I’m in Your hands and You’re the grown-up here, Abba. Come along during this month and say, ‘It is permitted to you. It is canceled for you.’3 Your daughter restricted herself by mistake, with sin and guilt? Release her from it, Ribbono Shel Olam.”4

It raises feminist hackles. “What’s this paternalism?? A woman takes a vow – who are you to undo it?” But it’s not arrogant paternalism. Father, Father, Abba, is taking responsibility. It’s amazing.
.30:17 2
Bava Batra 120b.
4 Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzeira, Pittuhei Hotam.

Av is the month for fathers and daughters. 

What does it say in the Haftarah? Look at your ִּב ְכָּרה ַק ָּלה ְמ ָּשֶּר ֶּכת ְדָּר ֶּכי ָּה appearance, daughter of Israel a restive young camel doubling back on her steps, and what happens to her? ְבָּחְדָּשה ִּיְמָּצאוְנָּה In her month they will find her.7 All the commentators agree: you’re in trouble. Your time will come any moment now, wayward daughter, to get what you deserve. But ְבָּחְדָּשהִּיְמָּצאוְנָּה“:the Haftarah is actually so consoling in her month they will find her,” in the month of Av the av, the abba, comes. Abba’s coming to take you, to free you from your city of refuge. These are just arduous journeys and encampments you’ve been forced to take during life. You’re actually so good, so pure.

There’s one man who takes responsibility for women’s suffering the Kohen Gadol. And just as we read in the parasha this Shabbat, at the death of the Kohen Gadol you can leave the city of refuge. The Kohen Gadol, Aharon HaKohen, died on Rosh Chodesh Av, as our parasha mentions. It’s the only yahrtzeit mentioned in the Torah. ,ַבחֶֹּדש ַהֲחִּמיִּשי ְבֶּאָּחד ַלחֶֹּדש - In the fifth month i.e. Av on the first of the month8, Rosh Chodesh Av, Aharon the Kohen Gadol died. He was the only one who took care of Israelite women’s beauty concerns during the long journey through the wilderness. He brought the Clouds of Glory,9 and our Sages explain that those were the desert’s Super- Pharm. Within the Clouds of Glory were perfumes and jewelry for the women so they would feel good about themselves during the odyssey.10
And he dies for you – you’re to die for – and we know that because in his death he says to you, “I’m freeing you now, my daughter. I’m taking responsibility for you. לֹא יֹו ִּסיף ְל ַהְגלֹו ֵת ְך. ַתם ֲע ֹוֵנ ְך, ַבת ִּציֹון He will no longer exile you. Your iniquity is finished, daughter of Tziyon.11 Here comes Abba to take you.”
Today and tomorrow, into Rosh Chodesh Av, is a wonderful time to light a candle for Aharon HaKohen, and to ask him to intercede for the Jewish women
7 Yirmeyahu 2:23-24.
8 Bemidbar 33:38.
9 Taanit 9a and Midrash Tanchuma Bemidbar 2.
10 Midrash Tehillim 23 and Devarim Rabba7 cited in Kli Yakar on Devarim 8:4.
11 Eicha 4:22.
that they be taken out of their exile in cities of refuge, that he pamper them with the Clouds of Glory in their homes; כל ְכבו ָּדה ַבת ֶּמ ֶּל ְך ְפ ִּני ָּמהָּ – the King’s daughter is all glorious within.12 I know so many women who receive so much honor on the outside, at work, or among friends, but who are so belittled at home.
So here, here comes your time as a daughter; your Father is coming to take you. May we have a good month.
Translated by Rav David Swidler
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12 Tehillim 45:14.