Daughters -and - Law
Volume 2 Issue 40
by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky
There is a fascinating sequence of events in this week's portion that is
analyzed by the Medrash and expounded upon by every major Torah commentator.
At the beginning of Chapter 27, the daughters of Zelophchad appeal to
Moshe. Their father died in the desert, but he was not amongst the
insurgents who rebelled against Moshe during Korach's uprising. He died of
his own sin and left no sons. The daughters want an inheritance in the Land
Moshe did not remember the law and consulted with Hashem. He advised Moshe
that Zelophchad's daughters had a valid argument. They were entitled to a
portion of the land that had been allotted for Zelophchad.
The ensuing section of the weekly Parsha has Hashem reminding Moshe that he
will not enter the Land of Israel. Immediately a conversation follows. In
verses 15-18 Moshe pleads to Hashem, "the Lord of all spirits and flesh to
appoint a man over the assembly who will go out before them and go in
before them; so they shall not be like sheep that have no shepherd."
Rashi quotes a Medrash that links the two episodes. He explains that after
Moshe saw that Zelophchad's daughters were entitled to inherit the Land, he
felt that the time had come to ask for the torch of leadership to be passed
to his own children. This does not come to pass. Hashem tells Moshe to
bestow authority to his own disciple, Joshua, who ultimately leads the
Jewish Nation into Israel.
Many Biblical commentators are puzzled by the connection of the request of
Zelophchad's daughters and Moshe's request. Why did the former prompt the
Second, were Moshe's sons worthy of leadership or not? It seems that only
after Moshe saw that Zelophchad's daughter's inherited did he say, "the
time has come that I shall ask for my needs." Why would the episode or
conveyance of land to Zelophchad's kin affect Moshe's opinion of his own
children's leadership abilities?
The pious and humble Tzadik, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan of Radin, known as
the Chofetz Chaim, was once riding a train to Radin. He wore a simple cap
and traveled alone, and hardly anyone knew who he was. A middle-aged Jew
sat down beside him and asked him where he was going. The Chofetz Chaim
answered softly, "to Radin."
The man was excited. "Do you know the saintly Chofetz Chaim? I am going to
Radin just to see him!"
The Chofetz Chaim was unimpressed. "M'nyeh," he shrugged. "I don't think he
is so saintly."
The visitor was so appalled that he slapped the old man and left his seat
shouting. "How dare you make light of the leader of our generation!"
A week later the man came to the humble abode of the great Tzadik. Lo and
behold, the old man from the train was sitting by the table in the dining
room. The man collapsed in shock.
He could not stop apologizing for the incident on the train when the
Chofetz Chaim halted him.
"Do not worry, you taught me a great lesson," said the sage. "One may not
even slander himself."
R' Mordechai of Czernobel (d.1837) explains the connection. Moshe was
concerned that the very sin that prohibited him entry into the Land of
Israel would also prevent his children a chance at inheriting leadership.
When Hashem told Moshe that Zelophchad's daughters shall not suffer for any
past misdeeds, he reconsidered his own situation. He realized that his
problem and sin had nothing to do with his children. They should not suffer
from his humility and self-effacing.
We all may get down on ourselves at one time or another. But our children
look up to us. We must show that we have confidence in ourselves. The
qualities that they believe we possess are those that we must pass on to them.
Mordechai Kamenetzky - Yeshiva of South Shore
Text Copyright © 1997 by Rabbi M. Kamenetzky and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Associate Dean of the
Yeshiva of South Shore.
Drasha is the e-mail edition of FaxHomily, a weekly torah facsimile on the weekly portion
which is sponsored by The Henry and Myrtle Hirsch Foundation