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Divrei Torah on the weekly portions

BeMidbar: Pinchas

Heir Conditioning

“This is the census of Moshe and Elazar the priest (to apportion the land of Israel) who numbered the children of Israel in the plains of Moav by the Jordan at Jericho. But among these there was not a man of the (earlier) census of Moshe and Aharon the priest who numbered the children of Israel in the Sinai desert. For God had said of them: ‘They will surely die in the desert’. The only remaining ones of them were Calev ben Yefuneh and Yehoshua bin Nun. Then TZelofchad’s daughters … drew near …” (BeMidbar 26:63-27:1).

The Torah teaches here that the only men who merited to be kept alive for the whole journey from Egypt to Israel were Calev and Yehoshua. Well, what about the women?

Rashi explains that “among these there was not a man” but there were certainly many women who survived from Egypt to Israel. This is because at the earlier incident of the spies’ bad report “Each man said to his brother: Let’s appoint a chief and return to Egypt” (BeMidbar 14:4) , so God decreed that the men would die out in the desert. The women, however, were not included in this decree because they cherished the land, as evidenced by the demand of TZelofchad’s daughters: “Give us a possession (in the land of Israel)!” (BeMidbar 27:4).

The Ketav Sofer questions Rashi’s proof from TZelofchad’s daughters that the women cherished the land? They had just seen how the land had been apportioned, so why should they not claim their father’s portion?

Likewise, the men had wanted to return to Egypt before the land was allocated and they had just heard the frightening report of the spies that the land was unconquerable! Why was this then a proof that they despised the land?

The Ketav Sofer answers that the men only felt the land was unassailable because they did not believe that the land was already theirs. Our forefather Avraham took possession of the land (symbolically, according to the Rabbis, or in practice, according to Rabbi Eliezer; Gemara Bava Batra 100a) by travelling its length and breadth (Bereishit 13:17). The men’s apprehension to conquer the land showed their lack of belief in this matter.

When TZelofchad’s daughters presented their petition for their father’s portion, it showed they understood that the land was theirs by inheritance and not by virtue of conquest. Had it been theirs by conquest, it would only be divided amongst those who went out to war. The women, who did not go out to war, would have no claim to the land. Their request for the land indicated that it is our treasured possession inherited from Avraham, and their endearment of the land was demonstrated by their desire to inherit a part of it. The men who felt they could not conquer the land did not reveal this affection.

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