Rabbi Yosil Rosenzweig
e-mail yosilr@widomaker.com

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Parshat Matos / Massei

To my many readers: I am happy to say that my wife Kathy (Chaya Gitel Tzirel bat Devorah) is doing well. She is in fine spirits and overjoyed by your responses to her illness. Every piece of e-mail that I receive from you (regardless of whether she personally knows you) is forwarded to her in Canada (where she is undergoing treatment). Please keep your weel-wishes and prayers coming, They are major souces of strength for her.

May Hashem send her a Refuah Shelayma (a full recovery) and may she continue in her own great works for Hashem's sake and her own.

While I am in Newport News, VA. Kathy is in Windsor, Ontario. I frequently fly up to her and speak to her everyday.

Thank you all.

This week we read two Parshiot (the plural of Parsha), Matot and Masei which together complete the Book of Bamidbar. Included in these Parshiot are the final laws dealing with Jewish life and the conquering and division of Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel). Bamidbar ends with the episode of the daughters of Tzelafchad. Interestingly, the episodes of the five daughters of Tzelafchad are referenced three different times in the Torah.

In Parshat Shelach, an incident of the transgression of the Shabbat was recorded that took place in the first year after the Exodus:

"The Children of Israel were in the Wilderness and they found a man gathering wood on the Sabbath day. Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moshe and Aharon, and to the entire assembly. They placed him in custody, for it had not been clarified what was to be done to him. Hashem said to Moshe: ‘ The man should be put to death; the entire assembly shall pelt him with stones outside the camp.'" (Bamidbar 15:32-35)

The Talmud (Tractate Shabbat 96b-97a) informs us that Rebbi Akiva (118-138 C.E. one of the leading Rabbis of the Mishnaic period), held that this wood gatherer was Tzelafchad, who wanted to show the nation that the transgressions of Shabbat were truly punishable by death and therefore martyred himself to prove the point.

In Parshat Pinchas, the daughters of Tzelafchad -

"...stood before Moshe, before Elazar the Priest, and before the leaders and the entire assembly at the entrance of the Ohel Mo'ed (Tent of the Meeting), saying: ‘Our father died in the Wilderness, but he was not among the gathering that rebelled against Hashem in the assembly of Korach, but he died of his own sin and he had no son. Why should the name of our father be omitted from among his family because he had no son? Give us a possession [in the Land of Israel] among our father's brothers.' And Moshe brought their claim before Hashem." (Bamidbar 27:2-5)

The Land of Israel was divided into tribal territories and then subdivided by means of a lottery into family portions. Inheritance laws do not permit a woman to inherit land. Since the land was subdivided - Livayt Avotam (to their ancestral home) - all tribal land must remain within the tribe. The daughters of Tzelafchad claimed that since their father did not die in Korach's rebellion, but in the sanctification of Hashem's Name, their "father's house" should not suffer exclusion from the lottery.

The Sifre (Halachic Midrash to the Books of Bamidbar and Devarim [Deuteronomy]) makes an amazing statement:

"The compassion of the Omnipresent is not comparable to the compassion of human beings. A human might have more compassion for males, but He Whose word brought the world into being is different. His compassion is for both male and females - His compassion is for all."

Therefore, in verses 6 - 11, Hashem clarifies the laws of inheritance regarding a man who dies without a male heir, in favor of daughters and only then to other family members.

In chapter 36 of Parshat Masei, members of the tribe of Menashe (the family of Tzelafchad) bring up another issue. Since the Land of Israel would be divided into tribal territories and then subdivided by means of a lottery into family portions, if female inheritors marry men from outside of their tribe, the land would eventually go to their children who would be members of their father's tribe. This would jeopardize the whole concept of family territory remaining within tribal land.

Similarly, a person (male or female) could sell land to any other person, with the understanding that during a Yovel (the fiftieth Jubilee year following a cycle of seven Sabbatical years) all sold land reverted back to the original owners. This way the Torah insures that land stays within the tribes and their families.

Moshe agrees with the assessment of the members of the tribe of Menashe. He responds:

"...Correctly does the tribe of the children of Joseph speak. This is the word that Hashem has commanded regarding the daughters of Tzelafchad saying: Let them be wives to whomever is good in their eyes, but only to the family of their father shall they become wives. An inheritance of the Children of Israel shall not make rounds from tribe to tribe; rather the Children of Israel shall cleave every man to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers. Every daughter who inherits the inheritance of the tribes of the Children of Israel shall become the wife of someone from the family of her father's tribe, so that everyone from the Children of Israel will inherit the inheritance of his fathers. An inheritance shall not make the rounds from a tribe to another tribe, for the tribes of the Children of Israel shall cleave, every man to his own inheritance. As Hashem commanded Moshe, so did the daughters of Tzelafchad do. Malah, Tirtzah, Hoglah, Milcah and Noah, the daughters of Tzelafchad, became wives to the sons of their uncles. [To cousins] from the families of the children of Menashe, son of Yosef, did they become wives, and their inheritance remained with the tribe of the family of their father." (Bamidbar 36:5-12)

The Book of Bamidbar ends with this last episode. The next Book of the Torah, Devarim (Deuteronomy), was actually written by Moshe just before his death. In ancient times it was referred to as Mishne Torah (the Second Torah or "Deuteronomy" [in Greek]). In this book Moshe informs the Children of Israel that in order to successfully live in the Land of Israel a certain level of righteous behavior is required. According to the Talmud (Tractate Megillah 31b) and the Ga'on from Vilna (quoted in Ohel Ya'akov 1:1), the first four books of the Torah were written by Hashem

We have often discussed the concept of the superior quality of spirituality in women. A basic principal in Torah is - Biglal Nashim Tzidkaniot Nigalu Avotaynu Mimitzraym (because of righteous women our forefathers were redeemed from Egypt).

Our Parsha completes the Torah - the Word of G-d, with this example of selfless righteousness on the part of our women. The names of those five special women are recorded in our Torah for all future generations to derive inspiration.

Sometimes modern women feel that their right to equal status is negated by the Torah and by Judaism. These three episodes are some of many examples that disprove their view. It is true that women cannot inherit land. The rights of inheritance of land may only go to men because of the biblical injunction of Livayt Avotam (to their ancestral home).

Unfortunately, many of us live by two incompatible life systems, the Torah and society. When Hashem completed this document, the covenant between the Jewish people and Himself, He left us with this example of how righteousness must be viewed by both men and women.


Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Yosil Rosenzweig

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