Devarim means “the words” and as the book opens we enter the last day of Moshe’s life. Moshe begins the book by recapping the details of the last 40 years. The portion ends with Moshe reminding Israel of the times that Abba YHWH fought for them. Now that the evil generation is gone, the time has come to strengthen their children by having them know that Abba YHWH is with them as they enter Canaan.
Mattot means “the tribes,” but also has very interesting secondary meanings of “staff, scepter, rod, branch,” all of which seem relevant here. The portion opens with a discussion on the need to fulfill valid oaths to Abba YHWH to the letter-valid meaning that the oath is not contradictory to Abba YHWH’s laws or pronouncements. Various examples and applications of this principle follow.
Then it is time to actually go to war against Midian. It is interesting that the previous portion had Israel get ready for this mentally, by totally changing their attitude and then Abba YHWH says, “Now is the time.” Midian is crushed and defeated completely.
Then in chapter 32 the sons of Gad and Reuben ask to take land other than Canaan for their inheritance. Both Moshe and Abba YHWH rebuke this horrible idea, “Shall your brothers go to war while you remain here?” Abba YHWH again confirms His judgment that none of those who came out of Israel 20 years and older will see the Promised Land except to Joshua and Caleb. Eventually though Moshe relents and says Gad and Reuben can have their request granted if they perform honorably and effectively in the upcoming war. The agreement is sealed, and their request is granted.
Masei means “the journeys,” and the entire 33rd chapter is devoted to the list of the 42 places the Israelites stopped at along the way to Canaan. The rest of the portion concerns detailed rules about what the land’s borders will be, which tribe gets what and general rules on inheritance. There is a sequel at the end of the portion where the daughters of Tzelophehad are told they must marry within their tribe to inherit. If they marry outside they do not get their inheritance.
Pinechas refers to the man whose righteous example of purging evil from Israel’s ranks
moved Abba YHWH to stop a plague that would have otherwise destroyed all Israel. More than that, the portion starts with Pinechas getting a particularly high honor from Abba YHWH, the covenant of peace that rests on him alone and ensures his progeny the high priesthood. But with the population of Israel decimated by the plague, a new census had to be done in chapter 26. When that counting was concluded, Moshe is then given a very interesting issue to deliberate on: Should women be allowed to inherit their father’s estate under certain special circumstances? Abba YHWH’s answer back to Moshe and Israel then shows us literally the most progressive law regarding women’s rights in the entire ancient world. After this we get more purity regulations and a repetition of the Moedim, or appointed times of Abba YHWH along with their associated offerings given in chapters 28 and 29.
Balak refers to the man, Balak of Zippor, who was the king of Moab and a dedicated enemy of Israel. When Balak then hears of a man named Balaam who can predict the future and cast curses, he hires him to curse Israel. However, Balaam can truly hear Abba YHWH’s Will and Abba YHWH tells him plainly that he can’t curse Israel. On three occasions the king of Moab wants a curse against Israel but only gets blessings for them instead. And then Balaam gives a fourth blessing on his way out—one for the proverbial road as it were.
Ironically also, Balaam disobeys Abba YHWH even as he correctly delivers the message, for Abba YHWH doesn’t want him to go to the king of Moab in the first place. When Balaam disobeys, he gets on his donkey to make the journey, but the donkey sees a vision of a Messenger from Abba YHWH and refuses to budge. Balaam beats the donkey three times and then the beast protests by complaining that she sees the Messenger barring her way. Eventually the Messenger allows Balaam to see the king of Moab who must then abandon his plans against Israel.
However, the ultimate irony is that what Balak could not achieve through either military or supernatural means he did through just sending in some Midianite party girls. Once Israel went astray with those pagan ladies, a plague came and killed many more than would have perished by Balak’s sword. Israel’s worst enemy is Israel.
“Chukkat” means “statute” and the portion opens with the requirements of the famous red heifer, that perfect red young cow that is so sacred, nothing else will do to inaugurate the entire sacrificial infrastructure. Not surprisingly then, the requirements for finding and then preparing for such a massively important sacrifice are detailed and intricate. Other purity laws follow after which we are confronted with the sad news of Moshe’s sister Miriam dying. Ironically, instead of Moshe getting compassion from the Israelites on this occasion they immediately rise in rebellion against him once more!
In response to this latest threat, Abba YHWH assembles all of Israel and tells Moshe He will cause water to come from a rock that Moshe will strike with his staff. The problem is of course Moshe doesn’t wait for the official command to do so and impulsively strikes the rock twice. The waters come out and Israel is refreshed, but Moshe and Aaron are punished for not being more patient. Abba YHWH tells them plainly that neither of them will enter into the Promised Land.
After these events, the Israelites ask permission to pass through the lands of their Edomite cousins, but their king refuses. This time though, Abba YHWH does not punish the Edomites because He is primarily incensed with Israel, so He simply orders them around Edom to a place called Mount Hor. It is there that Abba YHWH exacts the first part of His punishment against Moshe and Aaron, by having Aaron die on that mountain. The final full chapter (21) ends as the first one in this portion did. Israel asks for deliverance—this time from the Canaanites, Abba YHWH delivers and then Israel complains again, resulting in punishment. Are we learning yet?
“Korah” refers to the man of the same name who was responsible for mounting a rebellion against Moshe. There are many unique aspects to this act of rebellion, such as it being led by a Levite and a confederation of other leaders, and that Moshe and Aaron are on the same side against them. We also have touches of foreshadowing of Eliyahu’s later contest against the prophets of Baal. The results of this rebellion are among the most graphic of disasters depicted in Tanakh. Because the very fabric of the priesthood was threatened, the stakes for the right side surviving were incredibly high, and when order is eventually restored this time Abba YHWH confines His instructions to the priests so that they can regain some credibility.
“Shelach Lecha” means “send out for yourself,” referring to the spies that Moshe will send into Canaan to do a little “reconnaissance” on the strategic strengths of the various peoples living in Canaan. When the spies let their fear get the better of them and bring back an evil report, Abba YHWH officially enacts punishment that they will spend an additional 40 years wandering in the wilderness, or a total of 42 years from the time they left Egypt. However Caleb and Joshua prove themselves to be the voices of righteousness and will not give into fear.
Then, for the second time, Abba YHWH offers to destroy all Israel and start over a new tribe with Moshe as leader and the fallout from this occasion is most interesting, to say the least. Chapter 15 though also follows the pattern of the previous cycle when Abba YHWH offered to start over with Moshe, Moshe refused, and the final verdict from Abba YHWH comes down. In both cases, Abba YHWH reassures Israel by re-issuing his Torah requirements, meaning that even for those who will die in the wilderness the tribes they are part of will live through obedience to Abba YHWH’s Word.
“BeHalotekha” means “when you elevate” as in “when you lift up the lamps.” Aaron is commanded to light the lamps of the menorah and the tribe of Levi is commanded to serve the sanctuary. This is also when the institution of the 2nd Pesach is established and when the Israelites grumble over only having manna to eat as well as showing rebellion against Moshe from his own siblings!
“Naso” means “take,” as in “you will take an accounting of Israel” or a census. This portion begins with the census on the Gershonites and details all their prescribed duties in ministering to the Tabernacle. This is followed by the bitter waters test for an adulterous woman in Numbers 5 and other instructions for the sons of Aaron, culminating with the Blessing of the Priests in chapter 6. The 7th and last chapter in the portion details the contributions for the Tabernacle made by each tribal leader.
“BaMidbar” means “in the wilderness” and it begins with a census being taken of the nation, particularly of men 20 years and older who are able to serve in combat. The total comes to 603,550 excepting Levites who cannot be counted for this purpose. After this more details are given for how the Levites are to maintain the Tabernacle as well as their own purity.
“BeChukkotai” means “by/through My statutes,” referring to Abba YHWH’s judgments being “walked in” or followed. There is a distinction made between “laws” and “statutes” and “commandments” which we will look into later. This portion though goes beyond just listing a bunch of rules; rather it deals with the rewards for obedience and punishments for disobedience. Most striking of these enactments is the prediction in 26:34-35, where Israel is warned they will be vomited out of the land if they fail to keep the Land Sabbath. The 27th chapter has extensive details on the monetary values of making an oath of consecration regarding a person based on gender and age.
“BaHar” means at the mountain, from which Abba YHWH gives this series of instructions. It concerns itself with the intricate Jubilee and Land Sabbath rules, which I will be discussing from Torah and giving my take on them in the Eternal Torah Calendar system.