This week’s parashah contains the story of B’not Tzlofchad, those courageous and idealistic women who cherished the Land of Israel and demanded a portion in it. The first verse states, – The daughters of Tzlofchad, son of Chefer, son of Gil’ad, son of Machir, son of Menasheh – of the families of Menasheh son of Yosef – drew near (27:1). Rashi comments:
Of the families of menasheh son of yosef: Why is this stated? Does it not already say, son of Menasheh? It is to teach you [that just as] Yosef cherished the Land – as it says, – You shall bring up my bones… (BeReishit 50:25) – [so too] his daughters cherished the Land, as it says, – Give us a portion (27:4).
A few verses earlier, after recording the census of Moshe and Elazar, the Torah states: – But among these, there was not a man of those whom Moshe and Aharon the Kohen counted… For the Lord had said of them, “They shall surely die in the wilderness,” and not a man was left of them, except for Calev son of Yefuneh and Yehoshua son of Nun (26:64-65). Rashi, quoting BeMidbar Rabbah (21:10), derives from here that the daughters of Tzlofchad were not the only women who loved the Land:
Among these, there was not a man: But the women were not included in the decree of the Spies, for they cherished the Land. The men said, – Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt (BeMidbar 14:4), while the women said, Give us a portion. This is why this section is juxtaposed to the section of B’not Tzlofchad.
To help us appreciate the contemporary significance of these words of Chazal, I would like to copy (with permission) part of an article entitled “Women and Eretz Yisrael,” written by a true lover of Zion, Mrs. Shifra Slater. It is taken from To Dwell in the Palace (Feldheim Publishers), pp. 61-63. I highly recommend the book:
This theme [that women often have a clearer perspective on things] was repeated more than once while bnei yisroel were in the desert. But never was it as plain as in the sin of the spies.
On this occasion the men of Israel – but not the women – made a drastic mistake. Spurning the cherished Land of Israel, they foiled the geula. Six hundred thousand men, great and wise men, accepted the evil report of their leaders. They simply could not see through the visible “realities” in the Land. All they saw was fortresses and death, Amalek and giants. They, after all, as men, had in-depth knowledge of many aspects of the situation. The men knew how unskilled the Jews were in the martial arts; they appreciated the particulars of the agricultural work that faced the nation; they had learned well the commandments warning us against the Amalekite people. And so they reached a pessimistic conclusion. The men wept, causing catastrophe, earning perdition. (Bemidbar 14)
But no woman shed a tear. The women, once again, maintained their perspective. True, the women lacked the detailed knowledge of the Land’s circumstances which the men had. But they knew that reality could be defined only in terms of God’s promise. The apparently insurmountable hurdles would somehow disappear. No matter how things looked, all that mattered was the will of the Almighty. Their reward was entry into the Land God promised to the Jews. Every woman in that generation merited this great privilege. (Bemidbar 26,64)
Ah, but what a bittersweet reward! Were women created to be righteous only for themselves? To enter Eretz Yisroel as elderly widows? Was woman not created to work at her role of ezer kenegdo? [Literally, “a help opposing.”] If only they had mustered the strength of a Sarah or Rivkah. They might, like their foremothers, have “opposed” their men and, in doing so, been a real help.
They might have succeeded in pointing out the truth about Eretz Yisroel, instead of allowing the men their superficial view. In this way, all might have entered together, and the complete geula unfolded.
Is there a lesson for us today? Surely there is. No story in the Torah may be learned without its present-day application.
With the outstretched arm of open miracles, the Almighty has indicated to us that the time to return to Eretz Yisroel has come. A second chance, in our own days!
As women, we are in a better position to recognize this truth. For the men, finances, security, and a host of other gigantic realities may cloud the horizon. Caught in this tangle, they may resist the pull of the Land. They may turn their backs on this central mitzva, on this rare privilege.
If the women hold firm, we can put things into perspective for our men. Fulfillment of the will of God is, after all, the only reality. If we rise to His expectations, He will see to it that all the giants in the Land shrink and disappear. Holding us by the hand, He will lead us toward His goal.
Historically, the women of Israel have succeeded in just this way. Now the final chapters are tangibly near at hand. This is no time to fail in accomplishing our Divinely-ordained task. Today we dare not shirk our responsibility. Let us rise to utilize our “additional wisdom.” Recognizing that the ultimate destiny of Israel can be only in God’s own Land, let us show our men the way, and lead them triumphantly home.
WHAT’S THE CONNECTION?
Many parts of this week’s parashah are directly or indirectly connected to the Holy Land. Immediately after concluding the story of Pinchas (including the order to take revenge against the Midianites for their share in the deaths of 24,000 Jews), HaShem commands Moshe and Elazar to count the Children of Israel. What is the purpose of this new census? The Torah answers that question promptly: – The Lord spoke to Moshe saying, “To these shall the Land be divided as an inheritance…” (26:52-53).
I came across a very interesting sefer this week called Semuchim La’ad. Written by a great Kabbalist, R. Eliyahu HaKohen (author of Sheivet Mussar and Me’il Tzedakah), its main goal is to explain the connections between the various subsections of the Torah, demonstrating that the Torah was written in a logical order and sequence. With regard to the connection between the census and the division of the Land, the author points out that the last tribe to be counted was Naftali. This, he says, alludes to some of the special qualities of Eretz Yisrael.
1) The Midrash says that Naftali’s portion was especially suited for Torah learning (see BeReishit Rabbah 71:11). Thus, the Torah juxtaposed the division of the Land to the counting of Naftali, to hint to the strong connection that exists between Eretz Yisrael and Torah study, as Chazal say, “The very air of the Land makes one wise” (Bava Batra 158b).
2) R. Eliyahu HaKohen also claims that the word naftali means prayer (based on BeReishit 30:8). This alludes to the fact that one’s prayers are more readily answered in Eretz Yisrael than anywhere else in the world: “Because there is nothing preventing [one’s prayer] from ascending heavenward, for the atmosphere of the Land is free of the ‘husks’ which prevent our prayers from passing through. In addition, the gate of heaven is located there.”
3) Chazal derive from a verse in Parashat VaYigash (46:24) that the descendants of Naftali eventually committed grievous acts of idolatry (BeReishit Rabbah 94:8). Nonetheless, they received a portion in the Land, because God judges people based on the present; and at the time of the conquest and division of the Land, the children of Naftali were righteous. In addition, says the author, this alludes to Chazal’s statement that the Land of Israel atones for one’s sins (Ketuvot 111a).
4) Moshe blessed Naftali at the end of Sefer Devarim (33:23) as follows: – Naftali is satiated with favor and filled with the blessing of the Lord. Thus, our parashah juxtaposes Naftali and the division of the Land to hint to the fact that God, not an angelic messenger, provides the inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael with all of their needs, making it a very plentiful Land.
Getting back to the overall structure of the parashah: Following the section dealing with the division of the Land, the Torah records the census of the Levites. The reason that this count is not included in the overall census of B’nei Yisrael is because the Levites did not receive a portion in the Land (see 26:62). The Torah sums up the section as follows: – These are the ones counted by Moshe and Elazar… But among these there was not a man of those whom Moshe and Aharon the Kohen counted… For the Lord had said of them, “They shall surely die in the wilderness,” and not a man was left of them, except for Calev son of Yefuneh and Yehoshua son of Nun (26:63-65). Rashi explains that only the men died in the wilderness as a result of the Sin of the Spies, but the women were spared this punishment because they cherished the Land. This explains why the next section discusses the story of B’not Tzlofchad, who also cherished the Land. (For more on that, see the previous article.)
Next, HaShem tells Moshe, – Go up to this mountain of Avarim and see the Land that I have given to the Children of Israel. You shall see it, and then you shall be gathered unto your people… (27:12-13). Rashi explains why this section is placed here:
Since the Holy One Blessed be He said, “You shall surely give [the daughters of Tzlofchad] a portion of inheritance” (v. 7), Moshe thought, “The Omnipresent commanded me to give them a portion; perhaps the decree has been annulled and I will enter the Land.” Said the Holy One Blessed be He, “My decree still stands.”
Moshe never stopped hoping to enter the Promised Land. However, when he realized that there was no chance, he begged HaShem to provide the Jewish people with a competent leader who would bring them into Eretz Yisrael. Hence, the next section – the appointment of Yehoshua as Moshe’s successor (27:15-23).
Finally, the parashah ends with a long section dealing with the daily offering and the special musaf offerings brought on Shabbat and Yom Tov. What is this section doing here? Does it have any connection to Eretz Yisrael, which seems to be the common thread throughout the parashah? According to the Ramban, the answer is yes:
After saying, – To these shall the Land be divided, [HaShem] commanded [Moshe] to complete the laws of the sacrifices that are to be performed in the Land. For, they did not offer musaf sacrifices in the desert, nor were they obligated to offer libations in the desert. Now, however, those who were entering the Land were obligated to do everything, daily offerings and musaf offerings.
May we soon be privileged to offer sacrifices to HaShem in the Third Temple, speedily in our days. Amen.
Ø The sons of Yehudah [were] Er and Onan; Er and Onan died in the Land of Canaan (26:19).
This section hints to the events that occurred to the Jewish nation [throughout history], and it chose to do so via Yehudah for the same reason Chazal say, “Why is [all of] Israel called by the name of Yehudah, [etc.]” (BeReishit Rabbah 98).
When it says, The sons of Yehudah, it means [their] history, which is called “sons,” as is well known. By saying Er and Onan, the verse hints to the First and Second Temples. Er (ער) corresponds to the First Temple, as it says, – I am sleeping but my heart is awake (ער) (Shir HaShirim 5:2). For the Holy One Blessed be He was “awake” in the First Temple, showing us great Providence. Onan refers to the Second Temple. The verse calls it Onan (אונן) in the sense of אונאה, cheating, for [that edifice] lacked the essential components of the Holy Temple. The phrase “Er and Onan died” refers to the destruction of the Temples, for the removal of the Shechinah (the Divine Presence) from them is called death… You also find that the sin for which Er died was the very sin that caused the [first] destruction. Chazal state that [the Jews of that generation] polluted their beds [with semen] (Shabbat 62b), which is what Er did, as it says, – He wasted it on the ground (BeReishit 38:9). Onan’s sin was the sin that caused the destruction of the Second Temple: they hated each other for no reason. Similarly, it says concerning Onan, – So as not to give seed to his brother (ibid.). Also, [his name is] an expression of אונאה, [hinting to the fact that the Jews] mistreated each other.
By saying, In the land of canaan, [the Torah] designates the holy place, which is in the Land of Canaan. There is where [the Temple] “died,” entering the domain of Sammael (Satan), which is called Canaan. In addition, [this phrase] hints to a general reason [for the destruction] – that is, the fact that Israel failed to evict the Canaanites. Instead, they remained in the Land and caused [the Jews] to stray from the path of morality… (Or HaChayim HaKadosh)
Ø The Lord spoke to Moshe saying, “To these shall the Land be divided as an inheritance according to the number of names… However, the Land shall be divided by lot; according to the names of their fathers’ tribes shall they inherit. According to the lot shall his inheritance be divided, between the many and the few” (26:52-56).
[Our Sages] state that [the division of the Land] was done according to the lot and with Divine Inspiration. The explanation is as follows. The verse says, – Portions have fallen to me in pleasant places, even a beautiful inheritance is upon me (Tehillim 16:6). The gift of Eretz Yisrael is primarily in its supernal “root,” for every Jew has a portion in the upper and lower root of Eretz Yisrael. This is why [God commanded Moshe] to count [the Children of Israel] prior to their entry into Eretz Yisrael: to establish everyone on his root, like the previous census. That is, the Written Law and the Oral Law. All Jews have a portion in these two [Torahs], as we say, “[May it be Your will…] that the Holy Temple be rebuilt… and may You grant us our portion in Your Torah.” Furthermore, [Chazal] state, “All of Israel has a portion in the World to Come, as it says, – Your people will all be righteous; they will inherit the land forever (Yeshayah 60:21)” (Sanhedrin 90a). Now, even though the simple meaning of “land” is Eretz Yisrael, nonetheless, that is the sign that they have a portion in the World to Come: by the fact that they are privileged, in this world, to cling to Eretz Yisrael, which is the root of the souls of Israel… (Sefat Emet)