David Kolinsky
David Kolinsky

Matot: Narrowing in Excessive Contemplation-Midian

In the previous parashah, Pinchus’ actions demonstrate the importance of arching above (רמח spear) the myriad of options found in experience and thereby turning to particular things in consideration of them.

Endless contemplation (Midian) leads to one’s being bombarded by so many impressions that the person shrinks away from experience in ultimate failure (Kozbi), never committing to any one activity.

Parshat Matot opens with the importance of a person’s making vows – to committing oneself, obligating and binding oneself to things. Allegorically, the word for man (איש) means a person’s being mentally persistent with a particular thing. When a person dedicates oneself to a particular thing or activity regarding God’s bringing forth of existence or obligates one’s spirit to be bound to a thing or activity, that person may not violate nor undermine their ability to follow through with that commitment. Allegorically, the word for woman (אשה) represents a person’s conducting oneself through experience. A person, who is taking oneself about a scene (אשה), can remain dedicated to a particular thing-activity if and only if their taking notice of other things (אב father) remains hushed and mollified (החריש). Similarly, one who is taking oneself about a scene (אשה) can remain dedicated to particular things-activities if and only if their ability to become mentally persistent with other things (איש husband) remains hushed and mollified (החריש). On other hand, if one’s taking notice of other things (אב father) – or if one’s ability to become mentally persistent with other things (איש man) – imposes itself and thereby denies the person the ability to remain focused upon what has been dedicated to, God’s bringing forth of existence accommodates the person and lifts off from that person (סלח). Additionally, regarding a person who shows resolve (אלמנה widow) and a person who is driven into by something in experience (גרושה divorced), all that they bind upon their spirits remain established.

Having reviewed the principles that serve as the basis for committing oneself to particular behaviors, the Israelites are now ready to confront excessive contemplation (Midianites). Once that is accomplished, the person’s mental faculty that draws out particular things from a midst the many stirring things encountered in experience (Moshe) can be gathered in to its being mindful of the many things crowding in of experience (people). This confrontation occurs as a battle between a person’s making a sustained survey of the many things advancing forward in experience (Israel) and acts of contemplation of those things (Midian). Moshe sends them forth: an act of becoming familiar with things while training through experience (a thousand) regarded as an act of leaning in (per tribe), for the purpose of attentively making observations (for war); and the person’s turning in consideration of particular things (Pinchus), a behavior of advancing with initiative and becoming involved with the things that are around (Elazar), an act of giving things precise and mindful attention (priest) for the purpose of attentively making observations (for war) – and acts of containing what is brought forward in experience (holy vessels) and acts of driving in and narrowing in upon particular things in experience of the act of scattering oneself about experience (trumpets of sound) within his hand. They were musing over (killing) all of what was glaringly clear in experience (males) and the acts of deliberation (kings) associated with contemplation (Midian) – identifying individual things (אוי), and weaving those things together (רקם), and narrowing in on them (צור), and examining what is evident so as to gain clarity (חור), and elaborating upon it (רבע) – and one’s ability to exhaustively take in the being mindful of the many things crowding in of experience so as to give a competent accounting (Bilam), a behavior of burning clear through experience. They were settling down (taking captive) the acts of conduct of contemplation (women of Midian) and the mincingly and fastidiously roaming about (their dependents) associated with them; they spurned the acts of making observations (herds), the acts of visually fixing upon things (cattle) and the endless endurance (durable goods) associated with them. Nevertheless, all the stirred and aroused situations (cities) associated with them, with their settling in (settlements); and all of what was visually narrowed in upon (encampments) by them, they oversaw and extracted (burned) with mental persistence (fire).

Nevertheless, when they returned to the camp Moshe was incensed because they had allowed all of the being receptive to what could be delved into (females) alive. Because that tendency to try to be aware of everything had led them, through their behaviors of making a sustained survey of the many things advancing forward in experience (Israel), to circumvent God’s bringing forth of existence. Instead, they concerned themselves with what was barreling forward in experience due to the being gapingly wide open (to experience)(the matter of Peor), with what barrels forward as a result of one’s exhaustively taking in the being mindful of the many things crowding in of experience so as to give a competent accounting (Bilam). Therefore Moshe ordered them to muse over (kill) all of what was glaringly clear in experience (male), of an act of fastidiously roaming about experience (dependent). Additionally, regarding each act of conducting oneself through experience (women) that acknowledges an act of being mentally persistent (man), that which is regarded as an act of hedging into what is glaringly clear (male), they were also to muse over (kill). On the other hand, all that results of one’s fastidiously roaming about (dependent), that occurs with the acts of conducting oneself through experience (women) – that they do not acknowledge a hedging in of what is glaringly clear (male) – should be kept alive in experience (neither engaging with it, nor mentally processing it).

Moshe then instructed them to spend seven days outside the camp. These seven days represent a bubbling up of things to be mindful of, outside of what is ordinary or common in experience. Anyone musing over (killing) what is overly ambitious (נפש soul) or anyone thrusting upon anything tossed about (slain) must realign themselves instead with what is important. Additionally, anyone who reveals (בגד clothes) or exposes (עור skin) non-consequential facts or that persists with many things of intensity (עזים goats) or things that are elusive (עץ tree), must realign themselves with what is important, instead.

The text refers to what is clear and channeled of what is thrown out into the light as: זאת חקת התורה – “this is the statute of the Torah.” Nevertheless, there are other things in experience that a person might become aware of: fleeting impressions (gold), lasting impressions (silver), things coaxed out from experience (bronze), things that are penetrating from experience (iron), things that are separate and distinct (tin) and things that are superficially scattered about (lead). Any act of driving directly toward something (דבר) that can come into an act of being mentally persistent (fire), should and the person will be perfectly mentally clear (purified). Still into the many things drawn off (from experience) of an act of espying things (waters of nidah), that person should realign oneself. If a person cannot come into an act of being mentally persistent with something, then he shall go into the many things in experience that are of interest stirred up. Then they shall push into the acts of revealing and delivering up of basic facts about experience (wash their clothes) and will be perfectly mentally clear (ritually pure).

By taking a census of everything they improved the seeing (ראש) of what was taken up (מלקוח booty) from experience as a result of the being thoughtfully absorbed with experience (אדם) and of the’ pushing in so as to make observations (בהמה). This further required the actions associated with Moshe (the act of drawing out particular things from a midst the many stirring things encountered in experience), and El’azar (the act of advancing with initiative and becoming involved with what is around), and the heads of the fathers of the congregation (the acts of seeing in taking notice of things in being enduringly mentally present). What was taken up (מלקוח booty) from experience was then divided between those grabbing as a result of engaging things (תפשי המלחמה) and all of the acts of being enduringly mentally present (congregation). The booty was further divided: some of which was assigned to close processing by El’azar (the act of advancing with initiative and becoming involved with what is around) and some was meant to be kept in a person’s mind’s eye: assigned to the Levites (acts of mentally clinging to a scene, and thus generating an awareness of many startling things) – acts of observing what can be observed of the act of dwelling up God’s bringing for of existence (שמרי משמרת משכן Y-H-W-H). The latter come from acts of being mentally absorbed with experience (אדם humans), from the act of making an investigation (cattle), from the acts of being scrupulously attentive to details (חמרים donkeys), from the act of holding back in contemplation (צאן flock), and from all of the acts of pushing in so as to make observations (כל הבהמה all of the herd animals). Although further acts of processing are expounded upon in this section it would take up an entire blog to explain it all.

Allegorically, all of the tribes of Israel represent acts of making a sustained survey of the many things advancing forward in experience. At this point in the narrative, we are told that there was much visually acquired from experience (מקנה cattle) to the behaviors of tenaciously examining a scene for an activity of God’s bringing forth of existence by being mentally persistent in feeling overwhelmed (R’uvaen) and to the behaviors of exuberantly trickling through a scene, revealing things and then splitting off to take seriously and investigate a particular thing (Gad). After their seeing the disposing of oneself (land) to becoming involved with what’s around (Yazaer) and to the revealing of what is evident (Gilad), they asked Moshe for this to be given to them. It is no coincidence that this tendency to spend one’s time engaged in investigation of experience would be found in the same parashah as the battle against Midian (excessive contemplation), for this is Moshe’s complaint against them. Moshe reminds them of their ancestors. Although, he had sent them forth from a place of being dedicated to move forward, clearing away one’s holding back (Qadaesh Barnaea), once they had ascended unto what swirls around of the making of an investigation (נחל אשכול) and had seen the way of disposing of oneself (land), they had frustrated and hindered their will. Because they had refused to follow after God’s bringing forth of existence, they were made to wander about within what was barreling down of experience (wilderness) – being inundated by experience (forty years) – until all of the going about in circles (generation) that had done poorly in making observations of God’s bringing forth of existence had come to an end.

As a solution, these tribes proposed that they would build up a means of cutting off the consideration of things in experience (walls for flocks) for the many things visually acquired of them from experience (their cattle) and stirring situations (cities) for their fastidiously roaming about experience (their dependents). Additionally, they would assist the children of Israel by bringing them into the things in experience that arise and confront them (their places), before they themselves would settle into what comes into them of experience (their homes). They would do this because their inheritance has come into them, an act of scattering and throwing oneself about experience (toward the east). Additionally they said: your devoting attention (servant) shall do as that contemplation (my lord) demands – our fastidiously roaming about (dependents), our conducting through experience (wives), our visually acquiring things (cattle), and all of our pushing in so as to make observations (herd animals) shall be with the stirring situations (cities) of revealing what is evident (Gilad). Additionally, your devoting attention (servant) shall pass each way of being dispatched of being at attention (צבא) for the many things being presented of God’s bringing forth of experience, for engaging experience (battle), as that contemplation (my lord) drives directly forward (דובר). Therefore, they will both generally observe what there is to observe in experience, while at the same time being ready to engage whatever God’s bringing forth of experience demands of them.

The behaviors represented by the names of the cities acquired by Gad (one’s exuberantly trickling through a scene, revealing things and then splitting off to take seriously and investigate a particular thing): repetitively, expeditiously and tirelessly streaming into a scene (דיבן), slipping through the scene (עטרת), stirring up and exposing things (ערער), slipping through a scene and repetitively glossing over things (עטרת שופן), getting involved with things (יעזר), confronting a particular thing head on (יגבהה); and what comes in of advancing slowly, intently, and persistently, making an examination of the scene (בית נמרה) and what comes in of repetitively bringing things to light (בית הרן) – things stirred up of splitting off to make individual observations (ערי מבצר) and acts of cutting off one’s holding back in consideration of things (גדרת צאן).

The behaviors represented by the names of the cities acquired by R’uvaen (tenaciously examining a scene for an activity of God’s bringing forth of existence by being mentally persistent in feeling overwhelmed): repetitive consideration of a scene (חשבון), advancing forward with initiative in an augmented way (אלעלא), repetitively approaching things (קריתים), observing and paying attention to particular things (נבו), probing what is observed having been made to go around what is available in experience (בעל מעון מוסבת שם), and gradually forcing oneself into something to the point of becoming muzzled by it (שבמה).

Finally, Moshe gave half of the tribe of M’nasheh an inheritance there as well. Allegorically M’nasheh means one’s slipping through what is taken notice of of God’s Guidance found in experience, deferring it for a later time. However, the phrase a half the tribe (חצי שבט) represents an act of wedging in as a result of an act of holding back. Therefore, half of the tribe of M’nasheh represents an act of engaging particular things while slipping through what is taken notice of of God’s Guidance found in experience. There are three names associated with this representing one’s becoming familiar with particular things (מכיר), one’s shedding light on particular things (יאיר), and one’s probing and exploring particular things (נבח).

Note: My apologies. Usually, I have about 100 footnotes explaining each translation. But this week for a variety of reasons, I was unable to. If you have any questions about specific words, please IM me.

About the Author
David Kolinsky is a retired physician born and raised in Monsey, New York. While living in Monterey California, David initially lived as a secular, agnostic Jew. However, in his spare time, he delved into twenty years of daily study of Hebrew etymology and Torah study culminating in the writing of an etymological dictionary of Biblical Hebrew and a metaphorical translation of Torah. Abandoning his agnostic views, David was simultaneously a spiritual leader of the world's smallest conservative synagogue, a teacher in his local reform synagogue, and a gabbai at Chabad. He is currently sheltering in place with his family in his new home in Plano, Texas.
Related Topics
Related Posts
Comments