Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 2:4-28, 3:4 (Ashkenazi) | Yirmiyahu 2:4-2:28, 4:1-2 (Sefardi) | Yeshayahu 1:1-20 (Teimani), unless it is Rosh Chodesh
ירמיהו ב ד-כח, ג ד (אשכנזים) | ירמיהו ב ד-כח, ד א-ב (ספרדים) | ישעיהו א א-כ (תימנים) | אלא אם כן נופל על ראש חודש [על-התורה]
- An Accounting of the Journey from Egypt
- Moshe’s Speech at Arvot Moav
- The Boundaries of Eretz Yisrael
- Designated Heads
- Towns for the Levites
- Cities of Refuge (Arei Miklat)
- More on the Daughters of Tzelofchad
- Haftarah Summary: שמעו דבר ה’
As the 40 years of wandering, and Sefer Bamidbar, draw to a close, Moshe reviews the journey, detailing its stops. After this, many details of settlement are discussed by Moshe on the steppes of Moav: the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael, the designated heads of the tribes, the assignment of land to the Levites, the establishment of 6 cities of refuge for manslaughterers, and finally, the matter of keeping land allotments within the tribes to which they are assigned in the case of women inheriting, exemplified by, again, the case of the daughters of Tzelofchad.
An Accounting of the Journey from Egypt
Here we receive many details of the journey of Benei Yisrael out of Egypt and through the wilderness (midbar), or rather wildernesses, between Egypt and the Land of Canaan which they are to inherit as Eretz Yisrael. We are also given a time marker here: it is on the 15th day of the first month (i.e., Nisan) that the Jews set out from Ramses in Egypt, the day on which we now celebrate Pesach. The places in which they encamp are, in order:
- Ramses – רַעְמְסֵ֑ס
- Sukkot – סֻכֹּֽת
- Etam – אֵתָ֔ם
- Migdol – מִגְדֹּֽל (near Pi ha-Hirot and Ba’al Tzifon , פִּ֣י הַחִירֹ֔ת and בַּ֣עַל צְפ֑וֹן)
- Marah (מָרָֽה) in the Wilderness of Etam (or Etam Desert – מִדְבַּ֣ר אֵתָ֔ם), after passing through the sea (וַיַּֽעַבְר֥וּ בְתוֹךְ־הַיָּ֖ם) and journeying in the wilderness for three days
- Elim – אֵילִם – where there were 12 springs and 70 palm trees
- Yam Suf (the Sea of Reeds) – יַם־סֽוּף
- The Wilderness of Sin (or Sin Desert) – מִדְבַּר־סִֽין
- Dofkah – דָפְקָֽה
- Alush – אָלֽוּשׁ
- Refidim – רְפִידִ֔ם – where, it is noted, the people thirsted for water (the first time)
- The Wilderness of Sinai (or Sinai Desert) – מִדְבַּ֥ר סִינָֽי
- Kivrot ha-Ta’avah – קִבְרֹ֥ת הַֽתַּאֲוָֽה
- Chatzerot – חֲצֵרֹֽת
- Ritmah – רִתְמָֽה
- Rimmon Peretz – רִמֹּ֥ן פָּֽרֶץ
- Livnah – לִבְנָֽה
- Rissah – רִסָּֽה
- Kehelat – קְהֵלָֽת
- Mount Shafer – הַר־שָֽׁפֶר
- Charadah – חֲרָדָֽה
- Makhelot – מַקְהֵלֹֽת
- Tachat – תָֽחַת
- Terach – תָֽרַח
- Mitkah – מִתְקָֽה
- Chasmonah – חַשְׁמֹנָֽה
- Moserot – מֹסֵרֽוֹת
- Benei Ya’akan – בְנֵ֥י יַעֲקָֽן
- Chor ha-Gidgad – חֹ֥ר הַגִּדְגָּֽד
- Yotvatah – יָטְבָֽתָה
- Avronah – עַבְרֹנָֽה
- Etzion Gaber – עֶצְי֥וֹן גָּֽבֶר
- The Wilderness of Tzin (Tzin Desert) – מִדְבַּר־צִ֖ן – “which is Kadesh (קָדֵֽשׁ)”
- Mount Hor – הֹ֣ר הָהָ֔ר – at the edge of the Land of Edom (אֶ֥רֶץ אֱדֽוֹם) – it is noted that in the 40th year of wandering, Aharon ha-Kohen ascended Mount Hor and died there at the age of 123, as he was commanded. It is also noted that the Canaanite king of Arad in the Negev heard of the coming of Benei Yisrael at this juncture.
- Tzalmonah – צַלְמֹנָֽה
- Punon – פוּנֹֽן
- Ovot – אֹבֹֽת
- ‘Iyey ha-‘Avarim – עִיֵּ֥י הָעֲבָרִ֖ים – on the boundary of Moav (מוֹאָֽב)
- Divon Gad – דִיבֹ֥ן גָּֽד
- Almon Divlatayim – עַלְמֹ֥ן דִּבְלָתָֽיְם
- The hills of ‘Avarim – הָרֵ֥י הָעֲבָרִ֖ים – near Nevo (נְבֽוֹ)
- The arvot (steppes) of Moav, opposite the Yarden River, across from Yericho – עַֽרְבֹ֣ת מוֹאָ֔ב עַ֖ל יַרְדֵּ֥ן יְרֵחֽוֹ – encamping from Beit ha-Yeshimot (בֵּ֣ית הַיְשִׁמֹ֔ת) to Avel ha-Shittim (אָבֵ֣ל הַשִּׁטִּ֑ים)
Moshe’s Speech at Arvot Moav
Though brief, this is a powerhouse speech that serves as an overview and prelude to the details that are to follow in subsequent speeches. Now, Moshe reminds Benei Yisrael that they are charged with the conquest of the Land and its apportionment. He tells them that they are to destroy all their graven, cultic images and figures and demolish their bamot, cult sites. He also warns them that any remaining inhabitants of the Land left among them will be “a thorns in your sides” (צְנִינִ֖ם בְּצִדֵּיכֶ֑ם).
The Boundaries of Eretz Yisrael
Moshe instructs about the boundaries of the Land of Canaan which Benei Yisrael will enter and inherit:
- Southern boundary (34:2-5): From East to West, the boundary runs from the tip of the Dead Sea, skirting Midbar Tzin (the Wilderness of Zin) and Edom, and stretching to the Mediterranean Seas.
- Western boundary (34:6): The coast of the Great (Mediterranean) Sea.
- Northern boundary (34:7-9): From West the East (that is, proceeding in clockwise fashion when north is conventionally oriented), the northern boundary stretches from the Great Sea to Mount Hor, to the cities of Tzedad and Zifron.
- Eastern boundary (34:10-12): Begins with several stated cities, proceeds down to the Kineret (Sea of Galilee), then south along the Yarden down to the tip of the Dead Sea.
Elazar ha-Kohen (אֶלְעָזָר הַכֹּהֵן) and Yehoshua Bin Nun (יהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן נוּן) are designated to oversee the apportionment of lands once the tribes cross the Yarden and conquer the Land. In addition, heads (nesiim) from each tribe are appointed as administrators for that tribe:1
- Yehuda: Caleb ben Yefuneh (כָּלֵב בֶּן יְפֻנֶּה)
- Shimon: Shmuel ben Amihud (שְׁמוּאֵל בֶּן עַמִּיהוּד)
- Binyamin: Elidad ben Kislon (אֱלִידָד בֶּן כִּסְלוֹן)
- Dan: Buki ben Yogli (בֻּקִּי בֶּן יָגְלִי)
- Menashe (Yosef): Chaniel ben Efod (חַנִּיאֵל בֶּן אֵפֹד)
- Efraim (Yosef): Kemuel ben Shiftan (קְמוּאֵל בֶּן שִׁפְטָן)
- Zevulun: Elitzafan ben Parnach (אֱלִיצָפָן בֶּן פַּרְנָךְ)
- Issakhar: Paltiel ben Azan (פַּלְטִיאֵל בֶּן עַזָּן)
- Asher: Achihud ben Shlomi (אֲחִיהוּד בֶּן שְׁלֹמִי)
- Naftali: Pedahel ben Amihud (פְּדַהְאֵל בֶּן עַמִּיהוּד)
Towns for the Levites
The Levites, who are consecrated to work in the Mishkan (later, Beit ha-Mikdash), will not receive an allotment of land in Eretz Yisrael; rather, they are to be granted settlement in the towns of the various tribes and specified amounts of pasture lands outside these towns for their flocks. The towns are to include the 6 cities of refuge (see below), plus 42 more towns, which are to be distributed among the tribes proportionately depending on the population of the tribes.
Cities of Refuge (Arei Miklat)
Benei Yisrael are charged with establishing 6 cities of refuge, where those accused of manslaughter can reside safely until tried, or until the death of the Kohen ha-Gadol, upon which he can return to his home. Three of these cities are to be located East of the Yarden and three West, i.e. in Eretz Yisrael. Next, the laws of manslaughter are clarified, with murder being defined not just by intentionality to specificially kill, but through actions that are intrinsically lethal, such as swinging various implements or weapons, as well as vengeance. In difficult cases, the ‘edah is empowered to rule. Multiple witnesses are required to convict in capital cases, among other procedural rules established here.
More on the Daughters of Tzelofchad
One of the family heads of Menashe points out that if the daughters of Tzelofchad (from their tribe) marry outside of the tribe, their landholdings will end up going to the tribe they marry into and away from Menashe’s holdings. Moshe agrees that this is a problem, and requires that the daughters of Tzelofchad—or any daughters that inherit land—marry within their tribe. The daughters of Tzelofchad, Machlah, Tirtzah, Choglah, Milkah, and No’ah, do so.
Haftarah Summary: שמעו דבר ה’
[Yirmiyahu 2:4-28, 3:4 (Ashkenazi) | Yirmiyahu 2:4-2:28, 4:1-2 (Sefardi) | Yeshayahu 1:1-20 (Teimani)]
This prophecy of Yirmiyahu highlights Yisrael’s forgetfulness of Gd’s saving them from slavery in Egypt and bringing them to a settled land of their own. They have strayed and begun worshiping idols, bringing destruction upon the nation. Also pertinent to the themes of this parashah, Yisrael is likened to wild animals (a young camel or wild donkey) that wander in the desert. It is a stern rebuke for the generation about to cross into the promised Land.
Image: Louis Haghe, “Descent upon the valley of the Jordan.” Lithograph. 1842 – 1849. The New York Public Library Digital Collections. Dorot Jewish Division.