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5 Facts About Parshat Matot-Masei that You (Maybe) Didn’t Know

Published on Friday September 10th, 2021


Discover and learn every week, "5 Facts" written on the weekly Parshah that you can share at your Shabbos table.

וַיִּכְתֹּ֨ב מֹשֶׁ֜ה אֶת־מוֹצָאֵיהֶ֛ם לְמַסְעֵיהֶ֖ם עַל־פִּ֣י יְהוָ֑ה וְאֵ֥לֶּה מַסְעֵיהֶ֖ם לְמוֹצָאֵיהֶֽם׃ (33:2)

Moses recorded the starting points of their various marches as directed by the LORD. Their marches, by starting points, were as follows:

1.     Why was Moshe suddenly ask to write the Jews stops?

  • Before leaving Egypt, Moshe was instructed by Hashem to keep a precise record of all the stops they would make while travelling in the desert. Hashem now told Moshe that his personal notes would be recorded in the Torah. (Ohr Hachaim)


וַיִּסְעוּ֙ מִפְּנֵ֣י הַֽחִירֹ֔ת וַיַּֽעַבְר֥וּ בְתוֹךְ־הַיָּ֖ם הַמִּדְבָּ֑רָה וַיֵּ֨לְכ֜וּ דֶּ֣רֶךְ שְׁלֹ֤שֶׁת יָמִים֙ בְּמִדְבַּ֣ר אֵתָ֔ם וַֽיַּחֲנ֖וּ בְּמָרָֽה׃ (33:8)

They set out from Pene-hahiroth and passed through the sea into the wilderness; and they made a three-days’ journey in the wilderness of Etham and encamped at Marah.

2.     What did the Jews collect by the sea?

  • Upon the shore of the sea, they collected onyx stones and pearls. (Targum Yonathan)


א֣וֹ בְאֵיבָ֞ה הִכָּ֤הוּ בְיָדוֹ֙ וַיָּמֹ֔ת מֽוֹת־יוּמַ֥ת הַמַּכֶּ֖ה רֹצֵ֣חַֽ ה֑וּא גֹּאֵ֣ל הַדָּ֗ם יָמִ֛ית אֶת־הָרֹצֵ֖חַ בְּפִגְעוֹ־בֽוֹ׃ (35:21)

Or if he struck him with his hand in enmity and death and should die, the assailant shall be put to death; he is a murderer. The blood-avenger shall put the murderer to death upon encounter.

3.     What the “double verb” about being put to death ?

  • From the “double verb” we learn that if a person, for whatever reason, can’t be put to death with the Torah specified method then he can be killed in any way, even by bow and arrow.  (Sanhedrin 45b, Rabbenu Chananel, Sanhedrin 53a)


וְאֶת־מַלְכֵ֨י מִדְיָ֜ן הָרְג֣וּ עַל־חַלְלֵיהֶ֗ם אֶת־אֱוִ֤י וְאֶת־רֶ֙קֶם֙ וְאֶת־צ֤וּר וְאֶת־חוּר֙ וְאֶת־רֶ֔בַע חֲמֵ֖שֶׁת מַלְכֵ֣י מִדְיָ֑ן וְאֵת֙ בִּלְעָ֣ם בֶּן־בְּע֔וֹר הָרְג֖וּ בֶּחָֽרֶב׃ (31:8)

Along with their other victims, they slew the kings of Midian: Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian. They put Balaam son of Beor to the sword.

4.     How did Pinchas kill Bilaam?

  • As Pinchas and his men were about to kill Billam and the 5 Midianite kings, Bilaam called them all together and they raised themselves into the air.  Pinchas threw the tzitz at them and they all fell to the ground. He then  killed them all. Some say that Pinchas used the Explicit Name to make them drop to the ground whereupon Billam begged for his life.  Pinchas reminded him of all the evil he had done and then killed him. Others say that he take pity on him and let him live.  Moshe later set up  a special tribunal and sentenced Bilaam to death and  killed him. Others say that Pinchas was not capable of killing him by natural means so  he called Tzilia from shevet Dan who took a special sword, which had the image of a snake on both its sides,  and killed him. This was a fitting death for someone who used snakes to practice  sorcery during his lifetime. This is alluded to in the verse “They put Balaam son of Beor to the sword.” This is only mention in connection with Bilaam and not  the other kings who were killed. (Meam Loez)


וְעַתָּ֕ה הִרְג֥וּ כָל־זָכָ֖ר בַּטָּ֑ף וְכָל־אִשָּׁ֗ה יֹדַ֥עַת אִ֛ישׁ לְמִשְׁכַּ֥ב זָכָ֖ר הֲרֹֽגוּ׃ (31:17)

Now, therefore, slay every male among the children, and slay also every woman who has known a man carnally;

5.     How did the Bnei Isroel figure out which Midianite women were guilty?

  • With the help of the Tzitz, the Bnei Isroel knew which Midianite women were guilty of enticing the Jews and were  put to death. All the Midianite women were forced  to walk in front of the Tzitz which would make the guilty women’s faces turn green. (Yevamot 60b)
Eytan Yéhouda DZIKOWSKI - © Torah-Box Account

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