Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Parshas Pinchas 5770

QUESTION
Why is the law of inheritance brought in the name of the daughter’s of Zelopahad? What lesson does this teach beyond the laws of inheritance?

This weeks Parsha: Pinchas Bamidbar (Numbers) 25:10-30:1

ANSWER
Instead of posting it in my own words, I am going to quote what Terry (at Yahoo! Answers in response to this question there) posted in the name of Rav Simchah Zissel Broide zt”l

In Prince of the Torah, Rav Simchah Zissel Broide zt”l, Rosh Yeshiva Knesses Yisrael brings this down to R’ Shimon Yosef Meller:

“Rashi states (Bamidbar 27:5) that the daughters of Tzelofchad were rewarded for a great zchus in that a section of the Torah was named after them: the section of “The Daughters of Tzelofchad.” Rebbeinu [R’ Simchah Zissel Broide zt”l] questioned what the daughters of Tzelofchad – Machlah, Noah, Chulah, Malkha and Tirtzah – did that they received this honor that cannot be claimed by any other women, even the Imahos. And to compound the question, nowhere does the Torah even suggest these five sisters were especially righteous!

Rebbeinu answered:

It would seem that if the purpose of the Torah was to bring merit to these five women, the section should have been called “The Parashah of Machlah, Noah, Chulah, Malkha and Tirtzah.” By calling it “The Parashah of the Daughhters of Tzelofchad,” the Torah’s actually doing more honor to Tzelofchad than to his daughters!

According to Rashi (ibid., 27:3), who quotes the Sifri, Tzelofchad was none other than the man who cut the wood on Shabbos in the desert and was subsequently given the death penalty. However, his violation of Hashem’s command was not as simple as it sounds, for Tzelofchad had the benefit of klal Yisrael at heart when he sinned. Tzelofchad understood how extremely difficult for bnei Yisral to embrace thhe enormity of the intricate laws of Shabbos all at once. Therefore, he decided to perform an act of desecration of Shabbos in order to give a vivid example of the gravity of Shabbos laws. That act cost him his life…but that wasn’t all. Willful desecration of Shabbos calls for a much worse punishment – he risked his portionin the World to Come as well! Tzelofchad showed as yet unmatched self-sacrifice for the benefit of the community byy jeopardizing both his life on earth and his life in the World to Come for the sake of klal Yisrael.

According to this, Rebbeinu explained, we can understand why Hashem chose to reward Tzelofchad by naming a section in the Torah after him. Even though he seriously transgressed the laws of Shabbos, Hashem saw his total willingness to sacrifice everything he had – both in this world and the next – for the Jewish people and decided to call one of the parshios in the Torah “The Daughters of Tzelofchad” in his

In addition to this, I am also going to add what it states in Midrash Tanchumah. There it discusses why it is only in sefer Bamidbar, at the end of Moshe’s life that this issue is raised- and why it is only as they are entering Israel that the elders of the tribe of Manasseh become concerned over losing part of their inheritance in the land. First, we need to understand that Moshe seperated from Tziporah and was not with her for the 40 years in the desert. Why not? because Moshe was at such a high spiritual level and had such a high level of prophecy, he had to be ready for G-d tro appear to him at any moment. Other prophets did not have this problem as they generally first had to prepare themselves and only then could they receive a communication from G-d (we see this with Bilaam where he has to sleep to aloow G-d to communicate with him and give him an answer when he wants to answer the messengers of Balak). Moshe, who could receive communication from G-d without preparation thus had to ensure he was pure at all times.

The daughters of Zelopahad seperated from men and remained without husbands until the time they were about to enter Kna’an and the tribes were to take their inheritance. Until the elders saw that they did intend to marry after all and were not intending to remain single, they became concerned that they would marry men from other tribes.

Additionally, the Midrash brings that the laws of inheritance merited to be learnt through the women of Bnai Yisrael. How come? When the nation sinned with the golden calf in the desert, the women did not give their gold and jewellery to the making of it, but held back and did not participate. However, when it come to the donations for the Mishkan, they donated everything- earrings, rings, belly rings, necklaces etc- in fact, they donated so much that Betzalel told Moshe to tell the people they had enough and must stop bringing donations!

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June 29, 2010 Posted by | Torah | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Parshas Matos 5768

You ever feel really excited about something? So excited you get up early, jump out of bed, then rush to do whatever it was that excited you? Or you sit at work, and that one crucial task arrives- you know if you do it, and do it well, you will shine and be the next line in line for promotion- how quickly do you rush off to do it? To be the one to get the praise and accolades for a job well done?

What about the converse? The boss comes and tells you that you are fired, and then asks you to do one last task. How many people are keen then? How many people rush off excitedly, putting all that energy into that last task before they walk out the door to leave the company forever?

Chances are that everyone will identify with the first situation, and look at the second situation as bizarre. Run excitedly to complete the one task after which you will be fired? Most people will drag it out, extend it as far as possible to get the most possible traction from it. These two scenarios are played out in Parshat Balak and this weeks parsha.

In Parshat Balak we read how Bilaam wakes early in the morning, saddles his own donkey and leaves early. He is excited. He wants to curse the Jews. He wants to bring ill fortune and bad luck down on them- so much so that he foregoes the dignity and honour he normally insists on- preparing his own donkey and setting off without the household to accord him honour. He is like the first example- keen, eager, rushing off to do what he wishes.

On the other hand, in this week’s Parsha we see situation two. God tells Moshe to gather an army of twelve thousand men; one thousand from each tribe, to be led by Pinchas. Hashem tells him in clear terms that after the battle, his duty to Bnei Yisrael and Hashem will be completed and it will be time for him to die: he will never enter Yisrael- Bnei Yisrael will be led by his protégé Joshua in their conquest of the land. Not even his sons will take up his mantle of prophecy and leadership once he is gone.

Knowing this, one could forgive Moshe if he procrastinated a bit. If he dragged his feet, took things slowly, listened to the elders, took advice- and basically acted like most of us would in that situation. Instead, Moshe rushes to perform the commandment from Hashem. He does not delay, but right them gathers the army and sends it war.

In Moshe’s actions we can see how we should act. Moshe’s acts is as much an act of zealotry as Pinchas’, but while Pinchas’ happened in a moment of high emotion, an once in a life time situation- Moshe lived in this state constantly. Moshe lived to serve Hashem- for him, any commandment, no matter how small; or how painful to perform, had to be performed immediately, joyously and to the best of his ability. For Moshe, the serving of Hashem was the ultimate reward in itself.

So, too, it should be for us. Undoubtedly the complete acceptance and willingness that Moshe showed is not something easily done. Yet it should be something that we all strive for- to be able to fulfill the complete will of Hashem, joyously and rapidly, without worrying about how it affects us personally- but only that it is the will of Hashem.

July 21, 2008 Posted by | Parshah, Torah | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Parshas Pinchas 5768

Parshas Pinchas starts off where last week’s parsha finished. Moses sends Pinchas and the rest of Bnei Yisrael to war against the Midianites. An interesting thought is brought on this the Talmud, Masechta Sotah. In discussing the role of the Kohen who led the nation to war, the issue of why Pinchas was chosen in this role is brought up.

There it is said that Pinchas was chosen because he was to lead the nation in war not just for what had happened at Baal Peor, but also, that as a descendant of Yosef (through his mother), it was as revenge for the sale of Yosef by the Midianites to the Egyptians. From the incident at Baal Peor is easily understood why Pinchas should be symbolic of that- it was through his actions that the anger of Hashem had been averted and the nation saved. His willingness to act correctly when such monumental and blatant sinning had left great men like Moses, Aharon, Elazar etc stunned into inaction showed how much he loved the Torah and Hashem. Indeed, it was for this action that he became a Kohen.

But why is Pinchas chosen to be symbolic of the revenge of Yosef? There were princes of Ephraim and Menasheh that could surely have fulfilled that role, and would have been more symbolic in that role since they were within the tribes that were Yosef’s descendants! Here we learn an important lesson- Pinchas burned with fire, with emotion. He felt things- for him Hashem and Judaism were living things, things that were intimate to him. He felt the indignation at the disobedience of Hashem as an intimate attack. So too with the sale of Yosef, for him it was not history, not an event two centuries in the past which had gone cold.

From Pinchas we see that Judasism is not dry, the Torah and Tanakh are not merely history books of what happened to our ancestors. It is not a matter of rote and learning, of merely studying what happened to others- Pinchas shows us that we need to feel that what happened to our ancestors should feel like it happened to us today. Every year we read in the Hagaddah the father’s reply to his sons. To the wise one- that if our ancestors would not have been redeemed, he would still be a slave in Egypt; to the wicked one that he would not have been worthy of being redeemed. Both these answers have a common theme- it is addressed to the sons and their current situation- they are told that they, too, would have been redeemed or left behind- the Exodus is relived because it is intimate to US, not just to our ancestors. Similarly on Shavuot we are told that we must act as if the Torah had been given to us, personally. That it is ours for eternity, always new, always freshly handed to each of us in a personal capacity; it was not just something that was given to our ancestors, but something that we must feel was given to us personally.

Pinchas teaches us this- he feels, he acts. For him an act against Hashem is something not to be borne; for him the wrong done to Yosef is felt as if it had just happened. Let us learn from Pinchas and feel the Torah is ours, new and to be guarded and loved as if it were given to us today.

As always, comments, suggestions and nit picking are welcomed!

NB: This was actually written by me for Parshas Pinchas. But it actually deals with a topic from Parshas Matos, with Rashi commenting on this subject in his commentary on Parshas Matos. So I am dithering on whether I keep it Parshas Pinchas or retitle it to Parshas Matos. Comments on that anyone?

July 17, 2008 Posted by | Parshah, Talmud, Torah | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment