Parshat Masei Summary

Parshat Masei is the 10th and final parsha in Sefer Bamidbar (also known as Numbers).

This parsha is verses Numbers 33:1 – 36:13, or a total of 132 verses.

Here is a brief summary for each aliyah.

Aliyah 1: Numbers 33:1 – 33:10, 10 verses

The name of this parsha, Masei, is translated as “journeys.” This parsha lists all of the places where the Jewish people camped after leaving Egypt.

Many, but not all, of these places are mentioned earlier in the Torah.

The encampments mentioned in this first reading are from the leaving of Egypt until the Sea of Reeds (Yam Suf).

Because they were not traveling in a straight line, they came back to Yam Suf, but not at the place where they had originally crossed when God split the sea.

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Aliyah 2: Numbers 33:11 – 33:49, 39 verses

These verses list the journeys from Yam Suf to Mount Sinai. Then from Mount Sinai until they arrived near the Jordan River in the plains of Moab.

The Torah does not record how long the people camped in each place. It does, however, record a few of the significant events and where they occurred.

Here is a map from 1818 showing the journeys in the wilderness (click on the image to enlarge):

Journeys in the Wilderness

Aliyah 3: Numbers 33:50 – 34:15, 22 verses

The Jewish people are camped in the plains of Moab. This is their last camping place until they enter the Land of Canaan.

God warns the people that they must drive out the current inhabitants of the Land. He assures them that they are able to do this. However, if they fail to drive them out, those non-Jews will cause problems in the future.

God then defines the borders of the land that they are to conquer. There are various opinions about placement of the north and south borders.

The western border is the Mediterranean. Most of the eastern border is the Kinneret, the Jordan River, and the Dead Sea.

Aliyah 4: Numbers 34:16 – 34:29, 14 verses

In this reading God designates the leaders of the people and each tribe. These are the men who will take the people into the Land. They will also be responsible for overseeing the division of the Land between the tribes.

Aliyah 5: Numbers 35:1 – 35:8, 8 verses

The tribe of Levi was not to be included in the division of the Land. Rather, they were to be given 48 cities as their dwelling place. Six of these cities were designated as cities of refuge (which will be clarified in the next reading).

Each tribe is to give some cities to the tribe of Levi. Included with each city is an open space and an area for crops.

Aliyah 6: Numbers 35:9 – 35:34, 26 verses

Six cities are to be designated as cities of refuge: 3 east of the Jordan and 3 in the Land of Canaan.

A person who kills another person may flee to a city of refuge.

The Jewish court then decides if the killer is eligible to remain in the city of refuge.

If the killer acted without intention but carelessly, then the city of refuge protects him.

If the killer acted with intention, then the killer deserves to be executed for the crime. However, the Jewish court can only execute a killer under certain circumstances.

A killer who is protected by a city of refuge must remain in that city until the current High Priest dies. After the death of the High Priest, the killer may return to his home.

If a killer leaves the city of refuge early, then the relatives of the victim may kill the killer.

Aliyah 7: Numbers 36:1 – 36:13, 13 verses

The leaders of the tribe of Manasseh approached Moses with a problem.

They pointed out that the daughters of Zelophehad were promised their father’s portion in the Land. This was recorded in the 3rd and 4th readings of Parshat Pinchas.

If they would marry outside the tribe of Manasseh, then that land would eventually become the possession of the other tribe.

God commanded Moses that the daughters of Zelophehad should only marry within their tribe. God blessed them that they were able to find suitable husbands within the tribe of Manasseh.

Haftarah Summary

Jeremiah 2:4 – 28, 3:4, Sephardim add these two verses: 4:1 – 2

This haftarah does not relate directly to the parsha. Rather it is one of the haftarahs that are read leading up to the day of mourning, the Ninth of Av.

God brought the Jewish people out of the land of Egypt. He gave them the Land of Israel, a land that is exceedingly fruitful. Yet the people abandoned God and served idols.

Further Reading

Here’s an article on the subject of leadership in the wilderness.

Image Credit: The map shown above is from the collection of the National Library of Israel, courtesy of Eran Laor Cartographic Collection.

A Note on the Translations
The translation of Bible verses is based on the Judaica Press Tanach.
The translation of Gemara is based on the Soncino Talmud.
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