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Matos: A Great Person Continues Growing

וידבר משה אל ראשי המטות לבני ישראל לאמר זה הדבר אשר צוה ה'.

“And Moshe spoke to the leaders of the tribes of the Jewish people saying: ‘This is the thing that Hashem commanded.’” (Bamidbar 30:2)

The verse uses the word matos for tribes. The Torah could have simply said that Moshe spoke to the leaders of the Jewish people, without mentioning the word matos, as in Devarim 33:5. Even if there was a need to refer to the tribes, the word shevatim would seem to be a more appropriate choice than matos.

There is a powerful insight brought down in the sefer Amtachas Binyomin in the name of Rabbi Lipa of Chmelnik zt”l. He says that the greater a person is and the more he understands matters of spirituality, the more he realizes that he still has a long way to go to achieve true greatness. On the other hand, a simple person sometimes feels as if he is pretty okay. “I learn a little bit every morning, I pray every day, I give some tzedaka,” he reasons, “I’m doing fine. I’m a pretty good person and I’m happy with my avodas Hashem.” But a truly great person feels as if there is so much more to accomplish, so much more heights to reach. Even Moshe Rabbeinu, the greatest navi of all times, said before his departure from this world (Devarim 3:24): “You began to show Your servant.” He felt that the greatness he achieved was only the beginning, and there was still so much more to reach for.

Along this vein he also explains the verse (Bereishis 44:12) “With the oldest he began, and with the smallest he concluded.” By interpreting the words homiletically the following message emerges: “A great person feels as if he is at the beginning, while a small person feels that he is already complete.”

This may be what the verse is hinting at. The word matos can mean bottom. Moshe spoke to the leaders, the great men of the Jewish people, who considered themselves to be on the bottom. Due to their greatness, they understood how much more could be achieved and how insignificant their accomplishments were compared to the loftiness and holiness that a person could achieve.


The Chesed L’Avraham writes that the holy Shechina [Hashem’s Presence] keeps on going lower and lower, following our decline in exile. When we will reach rock bottom, that is when our salvation will begin and we will finally merit the Redemption.

The month of Av is about to begin. Unfortunately, we are still in exile. Although the Ninth of Av is called a “moed” (holiday) because it will eventually become a day of joy, we are now still in a period of mourning.

Hashem mirrors our actions and repays us measure for measure. If we will feel as if we are still at the beginning of our spiritual climb and there is so much higher to go, then Hashem will likewise say: “All the goodness that I gave you was only the beginning, and there is so much more that I want to continue giving you.”

We are nearing the end of our long exile and have already reached rock bottom. May Hashem have mercy on us and bring the ultimate Redemption. May all Jews be helped with whatever they need, and may we merit greeting Moshiach speedily in our days, Amein.


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