Friday July 26, 2019 – Tammuz 23, 5779
Torah Portion Pinchas
We are currently in the period of the Three Weeks (see last week’s blog) which will intensify once we reach the month of Av which begins next Thursday night. As we still have a week until the nine days begins, I’ll deal with it next week. No use to up the ante of anticipation:)
This week’s Torah portion has the five women I admire most in the Torah. They are colloquially known as the Daughters of Tzelafchad and their names are: Mahlah, Noa, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. It is interesting to note that Noa and Tirzah are popular Israeli names today.
In a nutshell, their story is as follows: It was the fortieth year since the exodus from Egypt, shortly before the Jewish people were to enter the Promised Land. G‑d had informed Moses that each tribe’s territory would be determined, among other things, by lottery. Each man in the tribe would receive a parcel of land in his tribe’s territory. Upon the man’s death, his sons would inherit his property, thus guaranteeing that each plot would remain in the family to which it was originally assigned.
One man, Tzelafchad, of the tribe of Manasseh, had only daughters. Tzelafchad himself died in the desert and his daughters were worried that they would not receive a share in the land of Israel. They therefore turned to Moses and requested that they be granted the land that would have gone to their father.
They went before Moses and said the following:
“Why should our father’s name be eliminated from his family because he had no sons? Give us a landholding among our father’s brothers!”
Moses brought their case before G‑d. G‑d spoke to Moses as follows: “The daughters of Tzelafchad have spoken correctly. You shall certainly give them a landholding among their father’s brothers and transfer their father’s inheritance to them.”
And that’s what happened. In their merit, the laws of inheritance follow this precedent. From then on, one who died without sons would have his daughters inherit his estate.
All the sisters married later in life and all had children.
The Tzelafchad’s daughters represent the Jewish women’s love for the Land of Israel. Our sages note the contrast between the men, who were afraid to enter the land and cried, “Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt,” and the women, who were eager to possess the land and even demanded a share in it.
Which brings us to what we, as Jewish women, can take from this Torah portion. While it is true that we live in the Diaspora, nonetheless we have both a love for where G-d has deemed we live and the Land of Israel. It is a testament that one’s heart can be in two places at once.
It is also interesting to note that the men were afraid to enter the Land of Israel while the women, with complete and unwavering faith in G-d, were eager to go there, despite what can only be described as fear of the unknown.
As Jewish women, as the heart and soul of our homes, we are very well aware of when we have to push, ever so gently, those in our families to take a chance, to make a move, to take on something that seems way too big for them – to go to a place that is unknown. We believe in ourselves and our families. We encourage them to take chances, to be the best they can be. And if that means, as the Daughters of Tzelafchad did, moving out of our comfort zone, so be it.
I am living this right now with my new cookbook – The Big Jewish Mama’s Cookbook. I have to go completely out of my comfort zone to places I never thought I would find myself. And in doing so, I often think of the five courageous women who came thousands of years before me. They feared only G-d Himself. After reading their story, I realized how liberating that thought-process is. Naysayers simply fall by the wayside.
How fortunate we are to have those tenacious, gutsy women to emulate.
Torah Portion: Sh’lach
Blessing of the New Month of Tammuz
This is a very busy Torah portion. Moses sends the twelve spies into the land of Canaan, asking them to report back to him what they saw. They returned after forty days and, with the exception of two (Joshua and Caleb), ten of them reported that it would be impossible to conquer the land due to the strength of the people and the giants living there.
Their lack of faith and trust in G-d, Who promised to give them the Land, influenced the people and they too refused to enter into the Promised Land. As a result, G-d decreed that every male over the age of twenty at that time would not go into the Promised Land.
We also get the mitzvahs of taking challah and wearing tzitzis. I found some interesting information about wearing Tzitzit thanks to Rabbi Zalman Marozov:
The Torah states the reason for the mitzvah of Tzitzit, “So that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the L-rd”. By exposing the Tzitzit, one can “look upon it” and thus “remember” all the mitzvot.
How does one remember all the Mitzvot (commandments) when looking at the Tzitzit?
There are 613 mitzvot in the Torah. The numerical value of the Hebrew word Tzitzit (90+10+90+10+400) is 600. Each of the Tzitzit has 8 strings and 5 knots. Together (5+8) they add up to 613 which is the total amount of mitzvot.
Back to the spies. Believe it or not, this incident took place a little more than a year after the Jews had received the Torah at Mount Sinai, worshiped the Golden Calf, been forgiven, and built the Tabernacle where G‑d’s presence was to dwell.
The spies were the cream of Israeli society, so why did they come back and tell Moses that the land devours its inhabitants? Not only that, but they did this in front of everyone, creating, we are guessing, a mass panic situation.
The truth is, the spies had the best of intentions in what they reported. The problem was that in the desert they lived a totally spiritual life. What they saw in the land of Canaan was that those days were over. They would have to work for a living, planting, sowing and harvesting.
Ultimately, the spies were wrong. G-d created the world to be a dwelling place for all of us, with all of our failings, foibles, weaknesses, desires, hopes and dreams.
Who wouldn’t want to live in a place of perfection, although I’m thinking it would be a bit boring? G-d created the world with tests and challenges for us. We need be prepared but we also need to have faith in G-d. There needs to be a balance between structure and creativity, between following G-d’s rules and being ourselves.
It’s not always easy as there are times when we don’t quite get what G-d has in mind. But, as we were born and are here in this world, each of us has our own personal mission to fulfil, one personally created by G-d for each of us. This is where the spies failed, and this one of the lessons from this week’s Torah portion for us today.