Mattot/Ma’asei 5770

Posted on March 23, 2011

by Jake Winn

“BUT WE’RE ANDY’S TOYS!” our small, cowboy friend proclaimed in the best movie of the summer (and potentially ever!). Yes, Woody is referring to a promise he and his friends made to their pal Andy, and a promise that they must keep no matter how dusty and scary the attic may be.

In this week’s parsha, Matot-Masei, Moshe is taught by Hashem the rules of the promise. If a man made a vow to God, he must carry out whatever he promised. But there were several exceptions to a binding promise: If a daughter made a promise in her father’s household, and her father learned of it and did not object, her vow would stand, but if her father objected on the same day that he heard about the promise, her vow would not stand, and God would forgive her. Similarly, if she was married while her vow was made, her husband would assume the same nullifying powers as her father once did. If her husband annulled one of her vows after the day that he learned of it, he would bear her guilt. However, on the contrary, the promise of a widow or divorced woman was binding.

In the movie Toy Story 3, the toys also learn about the power of a promise as they journey to the ends of the earth (or at least the city dump) to fulfill their vow to Andy (a metaphor for their toy Hashem). Similarly, the Israelites face the enormous task of “trashing” the wicked Midian town. Fulfilling his promise to God, Moshe commanded that they only spare the virgin girls as all other women and children that had been tainted by the Midianite bloodline would not be welcome into the Israelite tribe. In addition, Moshe made his army of soldiers go through a cleansing process after touching the bodies of the dead – a process much like the hosing that the toys went through after their visit to the dump.

On another trip from Jordan into Canaan, God commanded Moshe to kill all the inhabitants and divide the land amongst the Israelites. As a warning, God told Moshe that if the Israelites did not dispossess the inhabitants of the land, the ones that remained would become “stings in their eyes and thorns in their sides,” and would harass the Israelites in the land, so that God would do to the Israelites what God had planned to do to the inhabitants of the land. This is a warning that perhaps Woody should have had before he saved Lotso from the fate of the trash – maybe then Lotso wouldn’t have leave them to burn in the end.

The morals of the stories we’ve studied this week are simple:

  1. A promise is a promise: if you promise to take out the trash, finish you college applications or summer reading, or to take a shower one day this week – keep your promise!
  2. If you haven’t seen Toy Story 3, what are you doing with your life! Now you have to wait until motzei shabbos to go (good going!).
  3. God knows best, if you have doubts about God’s orders, chances are you’re not looking at the bigger picture, after all, if the toys had listened to Woody in the first place they could be waiting happily in the attic for the next time Andy came home from college … but, then again, there would be no adventure and no lesson, would there?