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.