Call Me By Your Name: Matot-Masei 2022

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Have you ever thanked a group of people but forgot one of the people you were supposed to mention? Were people upset? Or did they take it in stride?

As the Israelites prepare for building a society in the Promised Land, each tribe’s chieftain is named – but it’s also clear to whom they will answer:

The Pitch: “These are the names of the men through whom the land shall be apportioned for you: Eleazar the priest and Joshua son of Nun.” – Numbers 34:17

Swing #1: “Over and over, the tribes and their leaders are named in the book of Numbers. From the wilderness period to the time of the judges to the time of the monarchy, Israel is never ruled by an individual political authority. There are always tribal chiefs, councils of leaders, priests, judges, and military officers. An individual human’s rule is never absolute – not even for Moses, not even for David.” – Richard Elliott Friedman, Commentary on the Torah

Swing #2: “Eleazar is mentioned first, because Joshua went out by his command. Furthermore, Eleazar was also the son of Aaron. Scripture does not mention the princes of the tribes of Reuben or Gad, for [their tribes] had already taken their share.” – Ibn Ezra

Swing #3: “Each prince was the agent of his tribe and divided the inheritance of the tribe amongst the families and again amongst the men, selecting for each a portion fitting for him. What they did was done (was legal) just as if they (the tribes) had appointed them their representatives (Kiddushin 42b).” – Rashi

Late-Inning Questions: Is it surprising that Joshua is named in this verse after Eleazar is? Does this indicate that Joshua still needs some tutelage as he assumes his leadership of the Israelites? Or is this simply professional courtesy to the High Priest? To what extent do leaders need to continue their education?

On-Deck at TBT: As we are in the midst of the Three Weeks, we are approaching Tisha B’Av, the saddest day of the Jewish calendar. We hope you’ll join us for our observance of Tisha B’Av August 6th-7th.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of leadership, I find it curious that hockey and football teams place a high priority on naming team captains, while basketball and baseball teams often don’t. Might this be due to differences of culture, or perhaps differences in how these games are played and coached?

Shabbat Shalom!