Saturday 18th July 2020 26th Tamuz 5780
PARASHIYOT MATOT-MASEI Torahbytes
Torah: Numbers 30:1-36:13; Haftarah: Jeremiah 2:4-28,3:4; Gospels: Luke 13:1-9
And the congregation shall rescue the manslayer from the hand of the avenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to his city of refuge to which he had fled, and he shall live in it until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil. (B'midbar/Numbers 35:25)
The casual reader of the Hebrew Scriptures may be struck by the amount of violence found therein. Between plagues and wars, vengeance and judgement, it can seem as if one could hardly turn a page without someone or thousands of people dying. Those more familiar with the Bible should know that this is an exaggeration, but I wouldn't blame anyone for getting that impression. One must pay close attention to catch that even in the most graphic of bloody situations, there is so much good to glean. Take this week's Torah reading for example. We read here how Israel was to annihilate much of the Midianite population. This act of judgement and the reasons for it are difficult for many of us today. But that's not what I want to discuss this week.
(if you want to learn about God taking vengeance against Midian, tune in to Beit Ariel’s zoom meeting on Saturday 18th July at 10h00. To join, go to www.beitariel.org and subscribe to receive the link and password)
Further on in the portion we read about the cities of refuge. God directed Israel to establish several of these throughout the land for people directly involved in an alleged murder. It was the responsibility of a close relative of the deceased to avenge murder. Our translation obscures that the word for the avenger is ga-al, the same as "redeemer" in other contexts. A person responsible to restore impoverished relatives (as was Boaz in the Book of Ruth), m