Terms and Conditions: Matot-Masei 2018

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: What was the best deal you’ve ever made? The worst? Do you tend to give too much when you make an agreement, or do you hold out for something better?

As the Israelites approach the Promised Land, 2½ tribes ask Moses to settle east of the Jordan River. Moses agrees, provided that the tribes live up to their end of the bargain:

The Pitch: “‘We ourselves will cross over as shock-troops, at the instance of the LORD, into the land of Canaan; and we shall keep our hereditary holding across the Jordan.’” – Numbers 32:32

Swing #1: “The children of Israel were to enter the Promised Land ‘before the Lord’; namely, their main purpose in entering the Land was to be to lead a holy life there and to preserve the sanctity of the Land of Israel by keeping the Torah and its commandments. Without the Torah, the Land of Israel is no better and no more important than any other country.” – Avnei Ezel

Swing #2: “The way the land was given to Reuben and Gad on the condition that they fulfill their promise became the foundation for the Jewish law of conditional contracts. The four basic principles are: the condition must be stated twice, once positively and once negatively (as Moses did); the positive condition must precede the negative; the ‘if’ must precede the ‘what’; and the condition must be fulfillable.” – Shulchan Aruch

Swing #3: “According to [these verses], the potential inhabitants of the land east of the Jordan answered once again as if they had been asked once more and as if verses 28-30 had not, rather, been concerned with the instructions of Moses to his successors.” – Martin Noth, Numbers

Late-Inning Questions: Do our commentators sense that the tribes that wished to settle east of the Jordan are willing to go out of their way to make it work? Or are God and Moses the ones making the most concessions? What are the best kinds of agreements? Should they make both sides feel a bit disappointed, or should they make both sides happy?

Summer Training: Now that I’ve concluded a lengthy road trip, I’ve learned a bit about how to handle the physical toll of long drives. One piece of advice (easier said than done, of course): try to incorporate a decent walk or two, even on long driving days. Without that, it’s easy to fall into a lull, and that’s not a good thing while operating a car.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of agreements, I loved the contract that pitcher Turk Wendell signed with the New York Mets in 2001. The deal was for three years and $9,999,999.99. And yes, his uniform number was #99.

Shabbat Shalom!