Last week we discussed to what extent Ephrayim came before his older brother Menashe, and we pledged to return to discuss the matter in the context of the daughters of Tzelofchad receiving a part in the Land.
The midrash (Bamidbar Rabba 22:7) notes that there are three valuable presents – wisdom, strength, and wealth – that can be a part of a person’s downfall. The examples, one Jewish and one non-Jewish, were: for wisdom, Achitofel and Bilam; for strength, Shimshon and Goliath; and for wealth, Korach and Haman. The midrash continues that the tribes of Gad and Reuven were blessed with great flocks but because they loved their money so much that they settled outside Eretz Yisrael, away from their brethren, they were the first to be exiled.
Our parasha begins with the laws that arise from oaths, especially in the context of family relationships. That makes it a good time to discuss the power of one’s speech. Based on the power the Torah gives to a person’s oaths, things that he says can change matters on the ground in many ways.