Young French immigrants arrive in Israel in April 2014. (Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90) Miriam Alster/Flash90
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Rabbi Ari Enkin

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, rabbinic director, United with Israel

The Land of Israel was all that mattered to the daughters of Tzelafchad. Where did they get this attribute of love for the Holy Land? From their ancestor Joseph!

This week’s Torah portion is “Pinchas,” (Numbers: 25:10 – 30:1) named after the zealot who defended God’s honor by taking things into his own hands. However, what I would like to discuss this week is another episode in the Torah reading: the story of the daughters of Tzelafchad.

The daughters of Tzelafchad came to Moses and asked him if they would inherit their deceased father’s portion in the Land of Israel, since there were no sons to receive it. Moses told them that he was not sure and that he would inquire of God. (Never be shy to say you don’t know!)

Now, when the Torah tells us exactly who the daughters of Tzelafchad were, the verses seems to be redundant. As it says regarding their lineage, “the daughters of Tzelafchad, son of Chefer, son of Gilead, son of Machir, son of Menashe.” And then it says that they were “from the family of Menashe, son of Joseph.” [Numbers 27:1].

Why did the Torah feel it necessary to state twice that the daughters of Tzelafchad descended from Menashe, son of Joseph?

The commentators explain that the emphasis on Menashe, son of Joseph, indicates that love for the Land of Israel is hereditary. Joseph loved the Land of Israel tremendously, and as such, he insisted that when the Jewish people go free from Egyptian slavery many years later, they take his bones with them and bury them in the Land of Israel.  We see from here that Joseph’s love for the Land of Israel transcended life; even in death he was in love with the Land. This love for the Land of Israel ran in his family and was passed down to all his descendants, including Tzelafchad’s daughters.

Why did Tzelafchad’s daughters want a portion in the Land of Israel? Because they were madly in love with it! They were not going to stand by and let their family lose their portion in the Land of Israel just because there were no sons.

Furthermore, the question is asked: How can we tell that Tzelafchad’s daughters made their “inheritance inquiry” to Moses simply as a result of their love for the Land of Israel and not for some ulterior motive, such as financial gain?

The answer, it is explained, can be found in the identity of the mysterious Tzelafchad. According to one opinion, Tzelafchad was the Sabbath violator who was killed for his sin. Another opinion is that he was from the group of people who tried to “bypass” the decree of having to wander in the desert for 40 years and tried to force their way into the Land of Israel.

Either way, Tzelafchad’s death took place 38 years before the events in this week’s Torah portion. If Tzelafchad’s daughters were interested in their father’s estate from a strictly financial perspective, why would they have waited 38 years to ask for it? Furthermore, there was far more than their portion in the Land of Israel to haggle about, and yet we do not see them asking about their father’s property, wealth or livestock…only the Land! Only the Land of Israel!

For more insights by Rabbi Ari Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below:

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