Matot-Masay 5760

Tora - Torah

Parshat Matot-Masay Tammuz 26, 5760 July 29, 2000

Tora Dojo Teachers and Parents: If you share and discuss the Tora-Torah with younger students, tell it in your own words at their comprehension level rather than try to read it to them or have them read it.

Moshe speaks to the head of each tribe (Roshei hamatot) about making vows to do something above and beyond the requirements of the Torah. The discussion has to do with what happens if, for some reason, the vow cannot be fulfilled.

Next there is a narrative about a war against the Midianites. A thousand soldiers from each tribe were chosen to create the whole army.

Following this section of the Parsha, we hear that two and a half of the twelve tribes (Reuven, Gad and half of Menashe) don’t want to cross into Eretz Yisrael to settle there but prefer to remain in the land east of the Jordan. Moshe criticizes them but they assure him that they will cross the Jordan to take part in the battle to claim the land and then afterwards will rejoin their family and flocks to settle.

Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes. Each tribe had it’s own specialty that would be utilized in war and peace. Each tribe would teach the Torah and extend its spirit in its own unique way.Mateh means flag but also can mean inclination. The expression “heads of the tribe” can also mean the inclination of the head or mind. Each tribe had its own special way of doing things, its own character or strength.

That is why all twelve were needed for battle. That is why Moshe was upset that all twelve weren’t going to be living together in the land. There was a certain combined wholeness to the people that Moshe didn’t want to see broken up. For battle, all the specialties were needed.

This reminds me of classical martial arts training, especially the Shaolin tradition and legend. Each student had to be well grounded in each of the animal styles before they could specialize in one system in particular. That one system was chosen based on body type, psychological disposition, personal interest, talent, and so forth. Rarely, however, did someone just learn crane or tiger or monkey or weaponry or healing. They had to be well versed in all the styles, and as they reached a high level of general mastery, they became a rosh hamateh, a head of a particular style, because, on a deeper level, their head and heart inclined towards that particular practice.

How did this training succeed? We see one secret in another verse in Numbers 31:7 in the Parsha: “Anyone who made a promise or took an oath shall not break his/her word; he/she shall do it according to how it was spoken”.

Reb Tzvi Hirsch of Vadislaw taught that it was not enough to just keep the word of your vow. It had to be kept “as it was spoken“. When we begin our study as a white belt or begin a new system or level of study (even within the Black Belt levels) we do it with excitement and enthusiasm. The Torah teaches us here to keep that vow, that commitment to practice and master a new level with the same energy and enthusiasm that we had the day we started out.

We need all parts of our training (and all traits within us) to be whole, to conquer ourselves. And we need to do that with the same enthusiasm we had at the beginning of our journey.

"Tora-Torah" is a weekly column on Parshat Hashavua with insights into the inner aspects of the Jewish martial arts as founded and taught by Grand Master H. I. Sober in the International Tora Dojo Martial Arts Association. The copyrighted 'Tora tiger' logo is used with permission of Prof. H. I. Sober.

"Tora-Torah" is written or edited by Michael Andron, PhD. Lao Shih, a Seventh Degree Black Belt in the Tora Dojo Association. He has been teaching Grand Master Sober's system for over 30 years.

Note that the Tora Dojo comments are highlighted in a different color. This should help teachers in their sharing Tora-Torah with younger students at their level of comprehension. If any of you would like to contribute some "Torah" from time to time, send your suggestions (keep 'em short and ... in by Sunday, please) to I'll try to keep it simple and with a good Tora Dojo lesson as well.

"Tora-Torah" is published by Kodesh, Inc. Kodesh is a non-profit organization devoted to personal growth, mind-body effectiveness training, spiritual awareness. It offers programs to help the student "alter the state of his/her consciousness" through education, experience and joyful celebration.

© 2000 Michael Andron - All rights reserved.