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TIMING IS EVERYTHING by Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"The daughters of Selofhad drew near." (Bemidbar 27:1)

Before the Jews entered the land of Israel, Moshe had the task of dividing up the land amongst the tribes and families of B'nei Yisrael. The daughters of Selofhad, who were not yet married, were not given a portion of land, since Selofhad had died without any sons. The daughters sought out Moshe to present their case and found him teaching Torah. They waited until he began teaching the topic of inheritance, and then they made their claim to Moshe. Their claim was upheld and they were granted the land.

The daughters of Selofhad were praiseworthy for many reasons. They demonstrated a clear grasp of Jewish law, and they had a sincere love for the land of Israel. The Midrash, however, highlights one virtue in particular - their timing. They waited for the most opportune time to approach Moshe and only then did they present their case. What is so special about this trait that the Midrash treats it as their greatest virtue?

The Midrash is teaching us that the crowning virtue of a great person is common sense. Without this, a person can be intellectually brilliant, be packed with knowledge and have beautiful intentions, yet fail in his endeavors. The daughters of Selofhad knew that they must approach Moshe at the right time, and they understood enough to know the best time for their presentation.

It has been noted that common sense is very uncommon. A man can master the complexities of a supercomputer, yet not be able to interface with his fellow man. Through the study of Torah, with the analysis and honest introspection of musar, we can deepen our understanding of human nature and increase our common sense. Shabbat Shalom.

A TIMELESS MESSAGE by Rabbi Reuven Semah

"Our father died of his own sin, and had no sons. Why should the name of our father be done away? (Bemidbar 27:3-4)

We are introduced to the daughters of Selofhad. These women came with an argument to Moshe with pure intentions. Their father, Selofhad, passed away in the desert and he had no sons. Since the land of Israel was to be divided amongst the male sons, the daughters would not receive land and the name of their father would be forgotten. Therefore, they came to Moshe saying the law should accommodate them by giving them, his daughters, his portion. Moshe turned to Hashem to ask what to do and Hashem quickly responded that they were right and would receive a portion.

However, their argument contained a statement which seems unclear. "Our father died of his own sin, why should he be forgotten?" It is implied that because he died of his own sin, he shouldn't lose out. What's the explanation of this? The Hatam Sofer explains that the Talmud tells us that Selofhad died through execution! He violated the Shabbat and was put to death by the court. The Talmud teaches us that he violated the Shabbat for the sake of Heaven. He saw that the people felt that perhaps it wasn't required to keep the Shabbat in the desert. Therefore, he willfully violated the Shabbat in order to get executed, and thereby teach everyone the true severity of Shabbat. Our Sages teach us, "Anyone who beautifies the Shabbat will merit to receive a portion without bounds (Shabbat 118)." Therefore, the daughters rightfully argued that since their father gave his life for Shabbat, i.e. "he died of his own sin," he shouldn't lose anything because of this. His name shouldn't be forgotten by not receiving a portion because he had no sons. Hashem agreed.

We learn two lessons. Firstly, Shabbat is extremely important, even carrying a death sentence. We shouldn't make the mistake and think that Shabbat is no longer that important, since their is no death sentence today. There is no execution today due to a lack of authority of our courts, not because the violation is unworthy of a death sentence. Secondly, a person will never suffer a loss by observing Shabbat; it is the source of our bounty. Any effort to observe the Shabbat will always be repaid. Shabbat Shalom.


"In that he avenged My revenge among them so that I did not consume Bnei Yisrael in My jealousy" (Bemidbar 25:11)

Rashi explains that Hashem is saying that Pinhas displayed the anger which He Himself should have displayed. The reason Pinhas deserved such a significant reward was that he performed an action which was considered reserved for Hashem. He could easily have chosen to excuse himself by stating that this was Hashem's realm. This attitude of not looking for excuses should permeate our entire Torah observance.

The Talmud states that the wicked Turnus Rufus once asked Rabbi Akiba why Hashem doesn't support the poor. Rabbi Akiba responded that Hashem wants the merit of this misvah to benefit those who have taken the initiative to perform the misvah. We learn from this that although Hashem unquestionably can provide for the poor, it is His desire that mankind undertake this project. This may be compared to children who wish to help their parents in some way. Although the parents may not be in need of this favor, they nevertheless allow their children to do this in order to give them an opportunity to express their love for their parents. When children indicate in a significant way a desire to help their parents, it shows their love for them. This expression of sublime love and devotion displayed by Pinhas effected the great reward which he received. (Peninim on the Torah)


"Because he was jealous for his G-d, he atoned for the Children of Israel." (Bemidbar 25:13)

According to the Midrash, Pinhas and Eliyahu Hanabi were the same person. When Eliyahu complained to Hashem that the nation of Israel was not keeping the covenant of the Berit Milah, Hashem decreed that from that day on, Eliyahu would be present at every Berit Milah to testify on their behalf. When Eliyahu heard this, he objected and said, "Hashem, You know how I am jealous on your behalf. If the father of the baby is a sinner, I will not be able to stand being there."

Hashem then promised him that He would forgive all of the father's sins at each Berit Milah so that Eliyahu would not be troubled.

Eliyahu continued, "What if the Mohel is not a righteous person?"

Hashem guaranteed that all of the Mohel's sins would also be wiped out.

Eliyahu then said, "What about all the guests? There are bound to be some sinners among them." Hashem promised that all the sins of the entire congregation would be forgiven to spare Eliyahu the distress.

This is all hinted to in the above pasuk. Since Eliyahu, who is Pinhas, is jealous for Hashem's honor and cannot bear to see a sinner in his midst, and since he must be at every Berit Milah, he brings atonement to the entire nation of Israel. (Yalkut Hamishai)


"And you [Moshe] shall place some of your majesty upon [Yehoshua]." (Bemidbar 27:20)

The Gemara in Baba Batra tells that the elders of the generation said, "The face of Moshe is like the face of the sun; the face of Yehoshua is like the face of the moon. Woe unto us for the disgrace!" One can ask: Is the fact that Yehoshua's face was "only" compared to the moon such a disgrace?

The Hafess Hayim explains this with a parable. A person heard about a certain country across the sea which was filled with treasures of diamonds and precious stones. Anybody who wanted could just go and take. He decided to make the trip, but he wanted to find somebody to go along with him. He approached some of his friends and suggested that they all travel together. All but one of them declined because of the difficult trip it would require.

After a number of years the two men came back home loaded with jewels and treasures. When the others saw the two men they felt very jealous and tremendous regret that they hadn't agreed to go with them.

This is the regret that the elders felt when Yehoshua was appointed. Yehoshua was one of them, no more or less, and yet he merited such greatness because he chose to be in a place of great treasures - by Moshe Rabenu's side. They all said to themselves, "Woe unto us. We also could have served Moshe as Yehoshua did and merited such a high level of holiness. It is a disgrace for us that we did not reach that level."

Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer offers another explanation. The level of greatness that a leader reaches is contingent upon the level of his generation. If a generation is worthy, it could merit a leader as great as Moshe Rabenu. This is the disgrace which the elders were referring to. They saw that up until now they merited to have Moshe as their leader. Now, when Moshe was ready to pass away, and Yehoshua was appointed his successor, the elders noted the difference in their stature. They realized that this was not a lacking on Yehoshua's part, but it reflected a weakness in them and in the entire nation. (Lekah Tob & Tallelei Orot)

Pop quiz:From which mountain did Hashem allow Moshe to view the Land of Israel?
Answer to pop quiz:Har Ha'abarim.

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