This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Pinchas (5768)
This week's reading tells the story of the daughter's of Tzlofchad.
Tzlofchad was one of the millions of Jews that died in the desert in the forty years of wandering. What made him worthy of note were his daughters. He had no sons to claim his portion in Israel (given to every Jew that left Egypt) only five unsatisfied daughters.
They complained bitterly to Moses "Our father died of his own sin…why should we not inherit?!" (27:3,4)" So Moses asked G-d and the answer was. "… if a man has no sons his wealth goes to his daughters (27:8)"
In other words, they 'forced' G-d to answer! And if it wasn't for their complaint several laws would be 'missing' from the Torah!
Does this make sense?
Why all the drama? Why didn't G-d just tell Moses the laws of inheritance on Mt Sinai and finished!? Why did He force these women to demand it? And what did they mean by 'Our father died of his own sin?
To understand this.. here is a story.
Some one hundred years ago in Poland lived a very holy Jew called the Rebbe of Sanz. His erudition was renowned but his advice and prophetic vision were simply super-human.
He was also known for his charity. People would often line up at his door and often miraculously he would find the funds to cover their needs.
One of his followers, a virtual pauper who we will call Yosef, had to marry off one of his daughters and needed five hundred guilder; a virtual fortune. Besides the wedding expenses; clothes, music, and food he also had to provide a home and some funds to get their home started and he had nothing.
But when this Yosef approached the Rebbe, certain that his financial problems were over, the Rebbe gave him five guilder and a piece of paper on which was written an address. "Go here and he will give you what you need…. five hundred guilder and not a penny less."
Poor Yosef was disappointed but with no choice he went home, told his wife the news, packed a suitcase and two days later was knocking at the door of the large house indicated on the paper.
The door opened. A well-dressed, religious Jew opened and, realizing that it was a begger, invited him in.
"A donation?' The Jew asked, "For your daughter's wedding? Why of course! Here." He opened his wallet and held out two ten guilder notes with a smile of contentment as though to say 'I bet you never dreamed of getting so much, ehh?'
But Yosef didn't take the money. He shook his head 'no', solemnly handed him the Rebbe's paper and informed his would-be benefactor that he was sent by the Rebbe of Sanz and was told he would be given five hundred guilder.
The rich Jew's mouth fell open in shock! Was this man serious? Why, five hundred guilder is twenty years wages!! Insane!!
'Just one moment' he said and, trying to keep calm, went to call his good-hearted, down-to-earth, no-nonsense, tight-fisted wife. For sure she would talk this fellow into taking the twenty.
But to his amazement when she entered the room with him, had a look at Yosef and heard the name of the Rebbe of Sanz she smiled and with a tear of nostalgia turned to her husband and told him to give it.
Her husband's eyes widened like saucers but with no choice he dutifully went to the next room and returned with a large stack of bills… the entire sum.
"Now," she said after Yosef had the cash, "I'd like you both to sit down and I will tell you why I am so happy to give this money."
"When I was a young girl, almost twenty years ago my mother and I went to a wedding of a distant relative. When we arrived it was late but to our surprise the wedding had not yet begun and the room, although filled with people, was unusually somber and quiet.
"In one corner, surrounded by her family, the bride was sitting and weeping on her mother's shoulder and the others were trying to comfort her. We asked what happened and the answer was that the parents of the groom for some reason didn't arrive and the Rabbi that was supposed to perform the marriage ceremony refused to do so. He suspected something was wrong. Perhaps the groom's mother wasn't Jewish or they were hiding something else. In any case they were stuck.
"Suddenly someone yelled out that the Rebbe of Sanz was in the city and perhaps he could brought and save the day! The Rabbi there even agreed that if the Sanz'er Rebbe would take responsibility he would do the ceremony. So they ran to bring him.
"A very short time later the Rebbe arrived. He was so holy and beautiful… like a king! He stood there for a while in silence. He glanced at the groom and then took the parents of the bride into a side room. The mother of bride told me what happened.
"He asked them 'How many children do you have?"
'Seven' they answered.
'Did you have any children that died?"
'Well' the mother replied. 'One died in childbirth, one passed away from smallpox at one year old and …. " She became choked up and stopped,
So her husband continued. 'We had an eight year old son called Saul that drowned. It was ten years ago. He was a wild boy. I don't know how he made it to eight years old; he even had a big scar on his leg from when he tried to jump a high fence, almost lost his leg. Anyway, his friends said he dived into the river to show off and …. There was a terrible current and ….. well he just never came up."
"The Rebbe of Sanz left the room, went over to the groom who was sitting alone in the corner reading psalms, took him off to a side, asked him to pull up his pant leg and ….
Well you can imagine the pandemonium when the Rebbe turned around and announced that Saul was alive!
The father broke out in tears of joy and fell to his knees, the mother almost fainted and everyone was screaming and hugging each other not knowing what to do.
"It seems that when he disappeared in the river ten years earlier he lost consciousness got washed up on a shore far from home and someone found him and took him home. Then when he didn't remember anything, they told him he forgot that he was their son. But now they didn't attend the wedding for fear that the truth might be revealed.
"Then the Rebbe held up his hand, everyone fell silent and he announced that anyone who would donate money to pay for the meal and give to the brother and sister so they could find mates and marry would be blessed a hundred fold.
"Everyone stood in line to give but when it came my mother's and my turn the Rebbe refused to take our donation! "The time will come" He said with a smile, 'That I will send someone to collect it.'
And that is why I gave the money now so willingly.'
This answers our questions.
Sometimes things don’t go as easily as we would like them to. Often even miracles must be clothed in nature.
But it's always for the best. That is the purpose of a Rebbe; to show us how obstacles can be overcome and even transformed to miracles.
That is what happened in our story and why the Jews at first refused to enter the Land of Israel; there were too many obstacles!
In the desert they had no worries, G-d provided their sustenance and protection but in Israel they would have to work the land and fight enemies; namely to transform the world with Moses and make heaven on earth 'on their own'. And they were afraid.
But the daughters of Tzlofchad were different. Indeed, they were a paradigm of devotion to this task of transforming obstacles to the point that the even convinced G-d to remove the 'obstacle' of the laws of inheritance.
And it worked to the point that another chapter was added to the Holy Torah!
This is what they meant when they said 'Our father died of his own sin". Namely; he wasn't one of those that refused to follow Moses in overcoming the difficulties of Israel and, although he died of a sin, he would want us to do his part in transforming Israel.
This is very meaningful in our generation which the Lubavitcher Rebbe called "The generation of Moshiach".
Moshiach will bring all the Jews to Israel.
Moshiach will be a great Jewish leader that will bring total transformation to the world. There will be no suffering, war, pain or lacking rather the world will be filled with joy, meaning, blessing and gratitude to the Creator.
But it will begin with bringing ALL the Jews to ISRAEL.
Because Israel is much more than just a national home, a historical inheritance or even our G-d given Promised Land. It is the starting point for the transformation of all difficulties and obstacles, both personal and otherwise, into blessings.
It all depends on us. We must learn from the daughters of Tzlofchad and do ALL we can to change ourselves and the world around us in a positive way to be ready for....
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