Commit: Double Portion This Week

O holy Shabbes Inspiration Mattot-Masei

Double portion this week
both long poems
the necessity to read Devarim on the Shabbes before Tisha B’Av
a double measure of wisdom to prepare for the vision
— this week Mattot and Masei

It begins with oaths and vows
oaths – shevuot – related to sheva
seven
the full cycle
according to the Rambam
when he takes up the subject of vows, nedarim, in Mishneh Torah

Vow the neder
weighty to take a vow
to stay away from something that is permitted
I take a vow to stay away from meat
from saturated fats
potato chips how I love potato chips
or to take on something I think is right
but is not required of me
elevating the act to mitzvah status
I vow to drive every single person who asks me
to the airport anytime they want

Vows are a fence around separation [Avot 3:17]
I take a vow in order to help separate from a problem
distance or in our lingo
abstinence

You love those Little Debbie treats?
can’t eat just one?
you’re hiding vodka around the house?
cruising the dark streets for white powder?
special problems require special strategies
separation
willing to go to any lengths with the vow
in order to make a fence around the problem
separate from it

It’s serious this vow-taking
Maimonides recommends we don’t do it at all
let your yes be true and your no be true
this from the Talmud [Baba Metzia 49a]
we are expected to do what we promise
if we have to resort to vows
something is wrong

In conversation we say
bli neder
without a vow used in the sense of without a doubt
if I have to take a vow
I’m not good on my intention
I need a vow to get something done?
do it

Something else:
Mattot and Masei
Mattot in the opening verse [Numbers 30:2]
rashei ha-mattot the heads of the tribes
two words for tribes in our poem
this mattei (singular) mattot (plural)
and shevet
both words signify a branch
a staff
part of a tree
how a branch becomes a tribe
I am thinking about as I stoop
to kiss the ground

A staff a stick an emblem a totem
the tribal stick remote but —
possible

Tree consulted by its branches
branch separated from the tree
as in exile
separation and exile in the notion of tribe

All branches separated from the tree of life
the staff the branch the tribe
what does it owe to the tree?

Soft moist the shevet
dried out inflexible the mattei
the soul’s journey out from God
the exile of the partial from the whole
Israel among the nations
me from myself
the soul soft moist to its divine origins
or inflexible and brittle soul
souls dried out and far away from divine moistness

So too in exile
a connection with the Source
or a sense of far-away
inflexible to our origins
dried out
tribes either softening to the tree
or broken off and brittle from the tree of life

Turn all mattot into shevatim
turn all brittleness to moistness
turn the hard inflexibility of separation
into moistness and relation with the Source
draw down the definitions
bring us into relation
make us moist
turn us all into shevatim
moist particulars of the whole
divine remnants

return always assured

Hazak hazak v’nitchazek
be strong be strong
we are stronger
when we are moist

amen.

jsg, usa