Mattos Massei 5772 – Integrating the Realm of the Permissible


The parshah has three main sections:

  1. The Laws of Nedarim (vows)
  2. The war with Midian including the booty
  3. The boundaries of ever hayarden
The laws of vows seem out of place in the narrative. Last week’s parshah (Pinchas) ends with the war against Midian, so we’d expect this week’s to continue with it, instead, the Torah interpolates the laws of vows. Why?

Divrei Reshus

The majority of the parshah deals with the collection and integration of the Midianite booty. This represents a three-step process to integrating divrei reshus. Some things are clearly good and others clearly evil, but there is a third category or permitted but unobligatory things called divrei reshus or the permissible. Integrating permissible things into one’s life requires a three step process as outlined in the Parshah

Hachnaa – Subjugation

The dvar reshus must be subjugated to a higher purpose from the start. It is not enough to enjoy the world for it’s own sake, but we must make out participation in physicality subject to our spiritual life. This is

Havdala – Distinctions

Internal boundaries must be set up in order to ensure that only the beneficial aspects of the dvar reshus are retained while the negativity is expunged.

Hamtaka – Elevation

The experience must be further elevated and reattached to its source after the fact. This is represented by the trumah to the Kohanim.


Now we understand what nedarim are doing in the parshah. Nedarim are a framework for dealing with divrei reshus. There are different ways to view nedarim in Chazal. One way to view them is as undesireable but sometimes necessary. Another way is that it is desirable to make a neder and fulfill it.


The parshah ends by describing the boundaries of the annexed portions of land outside of Eretz Yisrael proper. We would expect the Torah to tell us what we need to know about the ikar land first, and then explain how to expand it, but instead the Torah first tells us about expanding beyond the boundaries before it tells us about the world inside our borders. The goal of avodas Hashem is to have an expansive relationship which goes beyond the boundaries of mere observance of the law. The Torah teaches us our goal first, then explains the basic standard that we must hold to.