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The Name of the Parsha
Parshas Matos is always read during the three weeks of mourning over the destruction of the Holy Temple, an event which plugged the Jewish people into a physical and spiritual exile from which they have not yet recovered. It is not surprising therefore, that the name of the Parsha contains a message of inspiration which helps us overcome the adversities of exile.
 
Scripture uses tow terms to refer to the tribes of Israel: a.) Shevatim; b.) matos. The difference between them is that “matos” are branches that have become detached from the tree, and have hardened to form a staff of a rod. “Shevatim,” on the other hand, refers to branches that still remain attached to their trunk, and are thus soft and flexible.
 
Chasidic thought teaches that the “branch” and the “rod” allude to the soul’s development as it passes from a heavenly setting to an earthly setting. In heaven, the soul is consciously “attached to God, like the branch which remains attached to its trunk. But before embarking on its mission, the soul is “immature.” It has never faced an obstacle in its relationship with God, and consequently, has never enjoyed the additional “bonding” that is brought to a relationship by overcoming obstacles. Likewise, the “hidden reserves” of power that were granted to the soul to overcome situations of adversity lie dormant undiscovered.
 
However, when the soul is placed in its earthly setting, in a physical body in the times of exile, all this soon changes. Like a branch that is detached from its trunk, the soul loses its effortless, emotional entrapment with the Creator and finds itself in a world which is antagonistic to holiness and truth. But we are promised that, with the necessary effort, the tender “branch” will soon harden to become a firm and rigin “rod,” that is unbending in its dedication to God.
 
Parshas Matos thus teaches us that God has given us the ability to live according to the law of the Torah under all circumstances. It is only a matter of will and determination on the part of the Jew, since potentially, one has the fullest capacity to live up to the will and the commandments of God, the Creator and Master of the world.
 
(Based on likutei Sichos vol. 18, pp. 382-4)
 

 


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