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D’var Torah: Parashat Matot-Massei

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In this week’s D’var Torah for Matot-Massei, the Chief Rabbi explains how we achieve true immortality.

We learn one of the greatest lessons in life from a tiny dot.

The concluding verse of Parshat Matot describes how Novach conquered an area east of the river Jordan. “Va’yilkod et Kenat ve’et Benoteha – He conquered Kenat and its villages,” “Va’yikrah Lah Novach Bishmo – Novach called that area after his own name.” Novach tried to achieve immortality, by giving his name to an area and as a result to try to ensure that for all time, his name would be on the lips of people.

Now fascinatingly, Rashi highlights the fact that there is a dot missing from the text. You see when the Torah says “Va’Yikrah Lah – He called it,” in the letter ‘Heh’ of the word ‘Lah’ there should be a dot so that it means ‘it’ – but the dot is missing.

Therefore Rashi indicates that the word ‘Lah’ actually now sound like ‘Loh’. And therefore the way to read the verse is “Va’yikrah Loh Novach – And he called out, Novach is no more”. You see, Novach thought that through fame, he’d be remembered for all time. But actually, what happened was – “Loh Novach – Novach is no more!”

Who talks about Novach? Who’s even aware of Novach? (Except for us right now.) He is forgotten! So therefore the message of the missing dot is about our immortality.

How do we really achieve immortality? It’s when we are good and decent people. When we set a fine example for others. When we touch hearts. When we mould minds. When we enable our values to be internalised by others so that they, in turn, will can make an impact on people and so it will be throughout all generations.

It makes no difference whether our names will or will not be known, in a hundred or two hundred year time. What does make a difference, is the impact we make. Because what we stand and live for, can actually pass though all generations to come; if we lead through example.

And we learn all of this from, the absence of a tiny dot.

Shabbat Shalom.