Have you ever promised to do something and not kept your promise? In this weeks' Parshah, the Torah tells us to be very careful about making promises so that we don’t accidentally break them. Instead of making a promise, one should say “I hope I can . . .”

Last week, we read how Pinchas killed Zimri and the Midianite woman when they tried to marry against G‑d’s will. G‑d now commands the Jewish people to wage war against the Midianites for trying to convince the Jews to act immorally and worship idols. Moshe chooses 1,000 men from each of the twelve tribes to serve as soldiers and appoints Pinchas as one of the leaders of the army. When the Midianites see the Jewish army coming to fight them, they laugh and say, “The Jewish army is so small, we will win over them for sure!” However, with G‑d’s help, the Jewish army is victorious over the Midianites without losing even one soldier.

After the war is over, two tribes, Reuven and Gad, approach Moshe to make a request. They ask him if they can settle with their families on the east side of the Jordan River instead of crossing the river and entering the Land of Israel.

“Why didn’t they want to join the rest of the Jewish People and enter into land of Israel?” you might wonder. Well, these two tribes owned a lot of cattle. They noticed that the land on the east of the Jordan was very fertile, with rich, green grass for their cattle to graze. Also, they knew that Moshe would not be buried in the Land of Israel and so they wanted to remain near Moshe’s burial place.

At first, Moshe is very angry by their request. “Will you stay here, safe and protected, while your brothers go to war to conquer the Land of Israel?” he asks them. When the tribes clarify their request stating that they will gladly join their brothers in battle, Moshe agrees to let them settle there. When Moshe agrees, half of the tribe of Menashe joins the tribes of Reuven and Gad in settling the land east of the Jordan River.

The Parshah of Massei begins by listing all of the 42 stops that the Jews made on their travels through the desert. After that long list, we read what the borders of Israel are according to the Torah.

The Torah portion discusses a very interesting mitzvah for the people living in the Land of Israel (we do not fulfill this mitzvah nowadays). They are commanded to build six “cities of refuge” throughout the Land of Israel. The cities served as a safe place for anyone who accidentally killed someone else. For example if “Benny” was chopping down a tree and it fell on someone and killed him, he would run to one of the cities of refuge. Once there, none of the relatives of the man who was killed were allowed to harm “Benny” in any way. There, he would be safe.

This is the last portion in the fourth book of the Torah. Next week we begin the fifth and last book, Devarim.