July 23, 2019 ~ Shabbat PINEHAS. Maqam SABA.

Shabbat Matot - שבת מטות

My Handshake

לא יחל דברו ככל היצא מפיו יעשה - Several years ago, my relative put his house in Brooklyn up for sale. He got what he thought was a reasonable offer, and without signing anything ("handshake agreement"), he verbally agreed to sell the house to this buyer. Days later, in a conversation with his neighbor about the upcoming sale, that neighbor was so interested in the opportunity of buying this same house for one of his children that he immediately offered him "a blank check." To this, however, my relative blatantly refused; citing the verbal agreement with the first buyer. My relative is quoted as saying "my handshake is my word." To be a respectable “man” (איש) in the eyes of God, as in the eyes of all people, "all the words that comes from his mouth he must do" (Numbers 30:3). In addition, anytime we use our speech, we must exercise caution, because ultimately we will be held accountable for all the words that we say. Beth Torah Bulletin, July 14, 2018.


ערים לטפכם וגדרת לצנאכם - When Reuben and Gad see the fertile land east of the Jordan River, they are enamored and petition (Numbers 32:16) "We want to build (1) pens for our flocks and (2) cities for our children." In response, Moses reverses the order of their requests (32:24): "Build (1) cities for your children, and (2) pens for your sheep." The Midrash understands this reversal as a rebuke for not having their priorities straight; valuing their possessions over their children. These tribes seemed to value the assets that add to their income (i.e. livestock), over the assets that did not (i.e. children). When they heard Moses' response, however, the message of getting their priorities straight was understood. In correction, Reuben and Gad affirm that (32:26) "(1) Our children... (2) our livestock... will be there." Only after Moses sees this correction does he grant their request (32:33) for the land. Beth Torah Bulletin, July 22, 2017.