Blessing for the Study of Torah
Outline of the Torah Portion
- Instructions regarding Vows and Oaths (30:2-17)
- Introduction and a Man's Vow (2-3)
- A Woman's Vow before Marriage (4-6)
- A Woman's Vow after Marriage (7-9)
- The Vow of a Widow or Divorcee (10)
- More on a Woman's Vow after Marriage (11-17)
- War against Midian (31:1-54)
- Mustering and Waging War (1-18)
- Purification Rituals and Distribution of Booty (19-54)
- Tribal Allotments East of the Jordan (32:1-42)
- Recapping the Israelite Journeys (33:1-56)
- The Journey from Egypt (1-37)
- Aaron's Death (38-40)
- The Journey to Moab (41-49)
- Directive to Annihilate the Inhabitants of Canaan (50-56)
- Preparing for the Future (34:1-35:34)
- The Boundaries of Israel (34:1-15)
- Appointment Leaders to Oversee Hereditary Land Allotments (34:16-29)
- Levite Cities and Cities of Refuge (35:1-34)
- Revisiting Landowner Legislation for Women (36:1-12)
The Art of War
The Promise of Gad, Reuben, and Half of Manasseh
Questions for Study
- What do the vanguard (front line fighting forces), loins, and the ritual of chalitzah all have in common?
- What can this teach us about how the Torah views the art of war?
Bringing Home the Warrior
Ritual Cleansing and the Division of Spoils following the Midianite War
Hugo Huber, "Adangme Purification and Pacification Rituals (West Africa)," Anthropos 53, no. 1 (1958), 175.
When the war is over, the warriors, together with their family members, carry one or two sheep with some rum as a thanks offering to their clan deity or to one of their war gods. All those who have shed blood during the war have to undergo a special cleansing ritual. A strong yokle (medicine) is prepared by the priest to wash off the blood stain. Three times he gives a small quantity of the sacred water into the mouth of the soldier, saying, “The [blood] stain which you have brought home, I wash it off from you, so that no headache may trouble you!”
Questions for Study
- Although Moses' instructions to the returning troops mandate a typical purification ritual for touching a corpse (see Numbers 19), Eleazar the priest demands far more from the soldiers, and the officers ask for expiation before יהוה in addition to the mandated disbursement of spoils. Why do you think this is so?
- What parallels can we identify between the purification rituals and distribution of spoils practiced by the Adangme and the Israelites?
- What might these parallels teach us about the act of returning home from war?