Torah Weekly

For the week ending 10 July 2004 / 21 Tammuz 5764

Parshat Pinchas

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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G-d tells Moshe to inform Pinchas that Pinchas will receive G-d's "covenant of peace" as reward for his bold action - executing Zimri and the Midianite princess Kozbi. G-d commands Moshe to maintain a state of enmity with the Midianites who lured the Jewish People into sin. Moshe and Elazar are told to count the Jewish People. The Torah lists the names of the families in each tribe. The total number of males eligible to serve in the army is 601,730. G-d instructs Moshe how to allot the Land of Israel to Bnei Yisrael. The number of the Levites' families is recorded. Tzlofchad's daughters file a claim with Moshe: In the absence of a brother, they request their late father's portion in the Land. Moshe asks G-d for the ruling, and G-d tells Moshe that their claim is just. The Torah teaches the laws and priorities which determine the order of inheritance. G-d tells Moshe that he will ascend a mountain and view the Land that the Jewish People will soon enter, although Moshe himself will not enter. Moshe asks G-d to designate the subsequent leader, and G-d selects Yehoshua bin Nun. Moshe ordains Yehoshua as his successor in the presence of the entire nation. The Parsha concludes with special teachings of the service in the Beit Hamikdash.


Knowing What You Dont Know

"The daughters of Tzelafchad" (27:1)

I once asked my Rabbi an important and difficult personal question. When I finished the question, he looked at me with a puzzled look and said "What makes you think that I could answer such a question? You must go to Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and ask him. This is a question that I am not qualified to answer."

A similar occurrence took place when someone I know took their son to a leading Israeli cardiologist with a rare heart complaint. He took one look at the child and told them that the problem was out of his league and they would have to take the child to The Boston Childrens Hospital.

Nothing inspires confidence more than someone saying they dont know. Because if they know what they dont know, then what they know they know.

In this weeks Torah portion, Tzelafchad passes away and leaves five daughters. They are all righteous, intelligent and learned. So much so that at the age of forty, none of them can find a spouse that is her intellectual equal.

When they hear Moshe say that Eretz Yisrael is to be divided according to the number of male children in the family, they realize that, under this ruling, their fathers name will be forgotten. They decide that they themselves will claim their fathers inheritance so that his name will be perpetuated.

Moshe had instituted a system whereby there were judges appointed over ten people, judges over fifty, judges over a hundred, and judges over a thousand people.

The daughters approach the judges over ten people with their claim. The judges realize that this is an unprecedented case and immediately refer the daughters to the judges appointed over fifty. They too refer the case to those above them, and they in turn to the judges over a thousand people. These judges tell the daughters that only Moshe is qualified to address their claim.

Although reluctant to appear in public, they overcome their natural modesty and when Moshe starts to explain the laws of Yibum (Levirate Marriage), they enter the court and seek to present their claim.

They present their case in a clear and forceful fashion; however Moshe replies that according to Torah Law only the males can inherit. The daughters reply using the exact same law of Yibum that Moshe himself was in the middle of explicating, that if, as women, they are not considered to be their fathers heirs, then their mother should marry one of the late fathers brothers as mandated by the law of Yibum. For Yibum requires that when a man dies without issue, one of his brothers should marry his widow.

Moshe replies, "Once there are daughters, Yibum does not apply, and she is forbidden to marry one of her late husbands brothers."

"Moshe, our teacher," reply the daughters, "How can that be logical? If we are considered our fathers progeny as far as the law of Yibum is concerned, why may we not be considered his heirs in regard to inheriting his portion in the Land?"

Seeing that their logic is impeccable, Moshe then turns to the Almighty and asks Him to confirm the claim of the daughters of Tzelafchad.

Why did Moshe rather than acknowledge the truth of their argument, defer his judgment to that of G-d? G-d taught Moshe all of the Torah, surely Moshe knew that their claim was a just one?

In truth, Moshe knew the correct ruling, but when he heard that every court from the judges of ten upward had deferred their judgment in favor of a higher authority, he too wanted to defer his judgment to the Ultimate Higher Authority.

Moshe wanted to teach every judge throughout the generations that, when necessary, one should never hesitate to consult a higher authority.

  • Source: The Midrash

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