The Lost Sheep

In the past, I have called the book of Bemidbar (Numbers) the Chronicles of Our Complaints. Perhaps this is why many people consider Numbers to be their least-favorite book of the Torah. It can be a bit painful to read what seems to be an endless catalogue of someone else’s mistakes. However, there is a thread that runs through most of the book of which we should take special note. It’s one of struggle — a struggle with the ability to control the tongue.shepherd

  • What we often call The Test of the Unfaithful Wife (the Sotah) should really be called the Taming of the Jealous Husband’s Accusations[1].
  • We complained about hardships and the outskirts were destroyed by fire[2].
  • We cried about a lack of meat and a plague took some of us[3].
  • The meraglim (spies) slandered the land and they are killed by a plague[4].
  • We listened to the spies’ report and we proved we were not ready to enter the land; therefore, we were given 38 more years in the desert[5].
  • Korach voiced allegations against Moshe and the ground opened up and swallowed him and others[6].
  • The very next day, open rebellion breaks out and a plague kills 14,700[7].
  • After Miriam’s death, the people complained, Moshe committed an act of Meilah (a misappropriation of something holy) and he is denied access to the Land[8].
  • We complained in the Negev and we were struck with serpents[9].
  • Balaam attempted to curse us and his efforts cost him his life[10].

All the events listed above show what effect the tongue has on our lives and those around us. Parshiyot Massei and Mattot[11] are no different, in which we are given commands regarding a neder (vow). Thereafter, the narrative continues with the tribes of Reuben and Gad asking to inherit land on the east bank. Moshe (who wanted nothing more than to enter the land) saw this turn of events as horrific. Therefore, Moshe gives them a hard time, but when they make a neder to help the rest of the tribes, Moshe agrees.

Moshe, then, discusses the two tribes and the half tribe of Manasseh in front of all the leaders. Moshe, by handling this situation in a delicate manner, is following an edict codified in multiple areas, including the Newer Testament:

If your brother sins against you, go and confront him privately. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the synagogue. And if he refuses to listen even to the synagogue, regard him as you would a pagan or a tax collector[12].

Asking why we treat him like a pagan or a tax collector is not the right question. We need to ask how do we treat him? I have read commentaries that suggest we shun the man, prohibit mentioning his name, and even walking on the other side of the street to avoid him. However, Yeshua is telling us we must treat him as if he has the hope of teshuva (repentance). We continue to have dialog, treat him with kindness, yet he is not allowed to participate in the Synagogue service. The one whom we must remove must be treated as a lost sheep.

Do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.[13]

Messiah first reminds us how important it is to seek out those who need teshuva prior to speaking about the brother who sins against you. Messiah assigns to us the task to seek out and bring the lost sheep home… all of them. You are the hands to lead the lost sheep to the good shepherd.

[1] Numbers 5

[2] Numbers 11

[3] Numbers 11

[4] Numbers 13

[5] Numbers 14

[6] Numbers 16

[7] Numbers 16

[8] Numbers 20

[9] Numbers 21

[10] Numbers 23-24

[11] Numbers 30:2 – 36:13

[12] Matthew 18:15-17

[13] Matthew 18:10-14


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