My notes on Masei

Parashat Masei

Numbers 33

33:1          These are the journeys of the children of Israel, which went forth out of the land of Egypt with their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Comment: Rashi on this verse counts 42 stages of journey for the Israelites during their 40 years in the wilderness, and points out that Gd didn’t trouble them by frequent moving.  Christians’ journey on earth, from their baptism until passing into “the world to come” (or the millennium kingdom), can be likened by the Israelites’ journey in the wilderness: they are already saved from Egyptian slavery, but have not yet reached the promised land. When they complete the journey, all the stages are counted and recorded by their shepherd. In the journey of faith, we fail sometimes, we waste opportunities sometimes, but let us pray that we will be like Joshua and Caleb, so that we will eventually get there with the full reward.


Numbers 34

34:2          Command the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land of Canaan; (this is the land that shall fall unto you for an inheritance, even the land of Canaan with the coasts thereof:)

Comment: Rashi’s comments here include a reason why the borders of the promised land are defined in detail in this chapter. Many commandments only apply in the promised land, so the Israelites need to know where exactly, for example, the lands need to observe the sabbath. For Gd’s people, observing Gd’s commandments is the best way to keep possession of their promised land. In fact, the ancient Israelites were exiled from the promised land for 70 years, at least partially due to their failing to observe the sabbath of the land for 490 years of their living there. So the missed sabbath years were made up during their exile, for the promised land to rest.


Numbers 35

35:7          So all the cities which ye shall give to the Levites shall be forty and eight cities: them shall ye give with their suburbs.

Comment: This fulfills Jacob’s blessing on the Levite tribe (along with the Simeonites): (Genesis 49:7) “Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.” This sounds like a curse but ultimately turns into a blessing for the Levites. These 48 cities are scattered among other tribes and probably used by the Levites to teach Torah, see Moses’ blessing later on the Levites: (Deuteronomy 33:10) “They shall teach Jacob thy judgments, and Israel thy law.” (For the function of the 48 Levite cities as torah centers of instruction, see also: Harvie M. Conn, Manuel Ortiz, Urban Ministry: The Kingdom, the City the People of God,InterVarsity Press, Feb 12, 2010 , p89.)


Numbers 36

36:11          For Mahlah, Tirzah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Noah, the daughters of Zelophehad, were married unto their father’s brothers’ sons:

Comment: Zelophehad’s daughters become famous eternally due to being recorded twice in the Torah. They are recorded once due to their desire to possess promised land and to preserve their father’s name: (Numbers 27:4) “Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son? Give unto us therefore a possession among the brethren of our father.” This second time, they are recorded in the Torah due to their observing Gd’s commandment for them to marry within the tribe: (v36:10) “Even as the LRD commanded Moses, so did the daughters of Zelophehad” .

Even though their father was a sinner and died without a son (Numbers 27:3), who would normally be forgotten over a few generations, his raising of these virtuous daughters alone merits his name being recorded in the Torah eternally. Fortune is him who has raised daughters like these!

By the way, according to the rabbis, nowadays women without brothers are no longer required to marry within the tribe. This and other interesting information related to the daughters of Zelophehad (including the meanings of their beautiful names) can be seen at


36:13          These are the commandments and the judgments, which the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses unto the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho.

Comment: This completes the book of Numbers (also called Bamidbar in Jewish tradition). When we complete studying a book of Torah, we say “Be strong, be strong, and may we be strengthened.”  See an article explaining this custom:

Of course, the study of Gd’s words never ends.

“Be strong, be strong, and may we be strengthened!”