This week we have another double parsha, Mattot (Numbers 30:1-32:42) and Massei (Num. 33:1-36:13).
I have been writing these weekly studies, giving a Hebraic Stoic perspective on each weeks Torah portion, for several months now. The purpose of this series of studies has been to look at the Torah the way the ancient Hebraic Stoics looked at it.
This has been the first week I have not been able to find a good example of some matter in this Torah portion about which either Philo of Alexandria or 4th Maccabees, gave some real insight from a Stoic perspective (I could have missed something, Philo’s writings are vast). However, I have, through the course of this series, learned how to think like an ancient Hebraic Stoic. Up until now, the small amount of material preserved by the ancient Hebraic Stoics, has been my training wheels, but today it is necessary, if I am to maintain this series, to ride on my own, without training wheels. Today I will apply what I have learned.
This weeks portion includes the laws concerning the vow of a wife:
 And Moses spake unto the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded.
 If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.
 If a woman also vow a vow unto the LORD, and bind herself by a bond, being in her father’s house in her youth;
 And her father hear her vow, and her bond wherewith she hath bound her soul, and her father shall hold his peace at her: then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she hath bound her soul shall stand.
 But if her father disallow her in the day that he heareth; not any of her vows, or of her bonds wherewith she hath bound her soul, shall stand: and the LORD shall forgive her, because her father disallowed her.
 And if she had at all an husband, when she vowed, or uttered ought out of her lips, wherewith she bound her soul;
 And her husband heard it, and held his peace at her in the day that he heard it: then her vows shall stand, and her bonds wherewith she bound her soul shall stand.
 But if her husband disallowed her on the day that he heard it; then he shall make her vow which she vowed, and that which she uttered with her lips, wherewith she bound her soul, of none effect: and the LORD shall forgive her.
 But every vow of a widow, and of her that is divorced, wherewith they have bound their souls, shall stand against her.
 And if she vowed in her husband’s house, or bound her soul by a bond with an oath;
 And her husband heard it, and held his peace at her, and disallowed her not: then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she bound her soul shall stand.
 But if her husband hath utterly made them void on the day he heard them; then whatsoever proceeded out of her lips concerning her vows, or concerning the bond of her soul, shall not stand: her husband hath made them void; and the LORD shall forgive her.
 Every vow, and every binding oath to afflict the soul, her husband may establish it, or her husband may make it void.
 But if her husband altogether hold his peace at her from day to day; then he establisheth all her vows, or all her bonds, which are upon her: he confirmeth them, because he held his peace at her in the day that he heard them.
 But if he shall any ways make them void after that he hath heard them; then he shall bear her iniquity.
 These are the statutes, which the LORD commanded Moses, between a man and his wife, between the father and his daughter, being yet in her youth in her father’s house.
(Numbers 30:1-16 KJV)
Theses things teach us something deeper, beyond their literal meaning on the surface. The husband represents the rational mind. The wife represents the passions. The vow represents our words and actions.
When our passions are inclined to react irrationally, it is up to our rational mind to monitor our passions and nullify that irrational response. Philo of Alexandria said:
“For these passions are the causes of all good and of all evil; of good when they submit to the authority of dominant reason, and of evil when they break out of bounds and scorn all government and restraint.”
(Life of Moses 1; VI, 26)
And in the ancient Hebraic Stoic work, 4Maccabees (also known as On the Supremacy of Reason) we read:
21 Now when Elohim fashioned man, he planted in him emotions and inclinations,
22 but at the same time he enthroned the mind among the senses as a sacred governor over them all.
23 To the mind he gave the Torah; and one who lives subject to this will rule a kingdom that is temperate, just, good, and courageous.
The laws concerning the vow of a wife , teach us this very Stoic principle.
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