Hadrash Ve-Haiyun
Dor Revi'i

Torah Insights on the Weekly Parsha
by Efraim Levine

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HaGoan R' Aaron Levine zt"l
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Hadrash Ve-Haiyan


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Our father died in the wilderness but he was not among the assembly that was gathering against Hashem in the assembly of Korach, rather he died of his sin; and he had no sons. Why should the name of our father be omitted from among his family because he had no son? Give us a possession among our father’s brothers.  And Moshe brought their case before Hashem. (Bamidbar 27 3-5)

In this week’s parsha we learn how the daughters of Tz’leph’chad requested a portion in Eretz Yisrael despite the fact that the law of inheritance does not apply to daughters but only sons. The Torah tells us that Moshe presented the question to Hashem. Hashem responded that their request was valid and they shall receive a share in Eretz Yisrael no different than had they been sons. The Midrash notes that Moshe here uncharacteristically did not know the answer to the question. The Midrash explains that this was a punishment for Moshe for saying that difficult questions of law be presented to him for resolution. These words conveyed that nothing was too difficult for Moshe. Here Moshe was forced to concede that there were things that were beyond him.

Let us suggest an additional homiletic explanation as to why Moshe could not decide this matter.

Immediately after the laws of inheritance, Moshe asked Hashem to choose a successor for the Jewish people who would lead them into Eretz Yisrael. Chazal tell us that Moshe truly desired that his own children succeed him. Hashem told Moshe that this was not His plan. Moshe’s children were not worthy. Instead, Yehoshua, his disciple who toiled and served assiduously would be his successor.

The Midrash asks what is the connection between these two sections of the Torah? The Midrash answers that Moshe felt that the daughters of Tz’leph’chad did not deserve to inherit their father’s portion of land because they were not included in the counting of the Jewish people and would not participate in the conquest of the land. Nevertheless, Hashem decided that they were to receive a portion. Based on this law, Moshe reasoned that his sons should inherit his position although they too were not worthy. Hashem explained to Moshe that Jewish leadership is different than the laws of inheritance.

Let us extend this thought a bit further by reviewing the words of the daughters of Tz’leph’chad. “Our father died in the wilderness but he was not among the assembly that was gathering against Hashem in the assembly of Korach, rather he died of his sin.” These words had a powerful impact on Moshe. Moshe realized that similar words would one day be said by his own children. “Our father Moshe died in the wilderness. He did not die due to the sin of the generation but for his own sin.” Moshe’s death was not due to the sin of the spies and Jewish people who complained about not being able to conquer the inhabitants of the land. This sin resulted in the decree that the entire generation die in the wilderness. Moshe’s sin occurred when in his attempt to produce water for the Jewish people he hit the rock instead of speaking to it. Chazal explain that this resulted in the loss of a higher degree of sanctification of Hashem’s name for which Moshe was held accountable. Moshe’s children would continue to argue like the daughters of Tz’leph’chad that although they are not worthy nevertheless “give us a possession among our father’s brother.” Just as Aaron’s children inherited Aaron’s greatness let us also inherit our father’s greatness. The daughters of Tz’leph’chad’s words made Moshe realize that his own children would want to assume his position of leadership after his death.

It is a well known law that a judge is not allowed to rule in a case where he has even the smallest degree of personal interest in the outcome. Furthermore, if the judge has a relationship with any one of the participants he may not rule. Moshe understood that the answer that would be given to the daughters of Tz’leph’chad would be relevant to himself and his children. Moshe thus had no choice but to remove himself from the case and present it to Hashem.


© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5764/2004