Numbers 30:2 – 32:42 (p. 702)
Haftarah: Jeremiah 1:1 – 2:3 (p. 710)
Torah Portion Summary:
Moshe instructs the heads of the Israelite tribes about vows and oaths. When a woman makes a vow, it can be annulled by her father or her husband on the day he learns of it. If this is not done, a woman’s vow is binding and must be fulfilled completely, just like a man’s vow.
Twelve thousand men, one thousand from each tribe, are picked to form the force that will wage war against Midian. The Israelites kill the Midianite males and take the women and children captive. Moshe becomes angry that the women – the very ones who enticed the Israelites to sin – were spared. He orders the soldiers to kill the women and male children, leaving only the girls alive. Moshe then tells the soldiers they must undergo a purification ritual. Eleazar instructs them about purifying objects seized as booty. The captured property is divided among the warriors and the rest of the Israelites.
The tribes of Re’uven and Gad ask to be allowed to settle on the east side of the Jordan, where there is ample land for their animals. They, along with the half-tribe of Menasheh, are given permission to do so once they promise to join the rest of the Israelites in the battle for the land of Canaan, on the other side of the Jordan.
Moses spoke to the heads of the Israelite tribes, saying: This is what the Lord has commanded: If a man makes a vow or takes an oath imposing an obligation on himself, he shall not break his pledge; he must carry out all that has crossed his lips. (Bamidbar 30:2-3)
All of the Torah depends on “this is what the Lord has commanded,” this being the most fundamental of all principles, namely that a person should not violate that which he has accepted upon himself as a vow or oath. Without this, there is no basis for the entire Torah, which we accepted as a covenant. (Hatam Sofer [Rabbi Moses Schreiber, 1762-1839, Pressburg, Hungary])
God said to Israel, “Be careful what you vow, and do not become addicted to making vows, for whoever is so addicted will, in the end, sin by breaking his oath, and he who breaks his oath denies Me without hope of pardon. (Tanhuma Mattot 79a)
Rav Dimi the brother of Rav Safra said: He who vows, even if he fulfills his vow, is called a sinner. Rav Zevid asked: And the proof? ‘You incur no guilt if you refrain from vowing’ (Devarim 23:23); hence, if you do not refrain, you do incur guilt. (Nedarim 77b)
We have been taught that Rabbi Nathan said: He who vows is as though he built a high place [for an idol] and he who fulfills his vow [rather than seeking to be released from it] is as though he brought an offering upon it. (Nedarim 22a)
When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. For He has no pleasure in fools; what you vow, fulfill. (Kohelet 5:3) The verse states that the Lord has no pleasure in fools who imagine they are doing His will by making many vows in order to spur themselves to fulfill a precept. Lacking prudence and understanding, they do not stop to think that perhaps it may turn out impossible for them to fulfill them all. On the contrary, they imagine they will be credited with the good intention that they had at the time of the vow. (Ramban [Rabbi Moses ben Nachman, 1194-1270, Spain])