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This Shabbat we bless the New Month of Menachem Av which begins on Monday, July 24th. May it bring to us the blessings of Hashem.
The double reading of Matot - Massay begins with laws regarding oaths and vows (how sacred words are) and concludes with the story of the five daughters of a man named Zelophchad.
During the past several weeks we have seen the power of words and the devastating consequences that can result from bad words, Lashon Hara: Miriam spoke about Moshe; the spies spoke of the land of Israel; Korach participated in a rebellion. The gift of intelligent speech is what distinguishes man from all other creatures. How man chooses to use that gift is what makes all the difference in life.
Lashon Hara is an especially devastating offense because it causes the heavenly court to scrutinize the deeds of all parties involved. At once, the talebearer, the listener and even the one about whom they spoke, are in danger. Lashon Hara opens all the record books of past sins that would otherwise have remained closed. It can quickly destroy families, relationships and entire communities. And all with the tongue!

A Rabbi once asked his student to bring him the finest food that he could find. The student recalled the story of the three angels who came to Abraham and how Abraham, with his great hospitality, served them tongue. He brought his Rabbi the finest tongue available and the Rabbi was pleased. "Now," said the Rabbi, "bring to me the worst food you can find."  After much searching and contemplation the student brought him another tongue! "Well done," said the Rabbi (referring to the deed and not the level of cooking).
The student understood that the tongue has the ability to be the greatest asset of man. It can comfort and uplift, educate and enlighten, accomplish Mitzvot and serve Hashem through prayer. But that same tongue can debase man to the lowest level of any creature. It can lie and deceive, destroy relationships with Hashem and fellow man, and make a promise and break one. It is for this reason that our Torah Portion this week warns against the taking of oaths and vows, Bamidbar 30:3.
Parshat Massay concludes on a positive note with the marriage of the five daughters of Zelophchad. Zelophchad had died leaving no sons to inherit his land and his daughters requested that Moshe rule on their eligibility to inherit their father's property.
Moshe, relaying Hashem's words, ruled in their favor, but as we learn in Bamidbar 36:1 the tribe was concerned that the daughters will marry men of other tribes and their land will be lost. Moshe ruled that these women shall marry within their tribe. And this week we learn that each found a good husband. Each of these righteous women pronounced their holy marriage vows in accordance with Hashem's will and remain an inspiration to our people for all time.
"Chazak!  Chazak!  V'nitchazeik!" -  Be strong!  Be strong! And may we be strengthened!
Kol Tov!  Our best to you... it's all good. Shabbat Shalom, CM
Someone noticed that July 4, 1776 fell on the fast day of the 17th of Tammuz! Is there a possible connection between these two historically significant dates?

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