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Taking the Initiative

By: Mrs Sally Mayer

In Parshat Pinchas, we meet the daughters of Tzlofchad, who come to Moshe Rabbeinu with a request. They explain that their father had passed away and left five daughters but no sons; since Am Yisrael is now poised to enter Eretz Yisrael, and the land will be divided amongst the families via the male heads of the households, they are concerned: “Lamah yi-gara’ shem avinu mi-tokh mishpachto?” “Why should our father’s name be removed from his family? Please give to us the portion he would have received amongst his brothers.”

Moshe asks Hashem for the answer to their question, and Hashem responds, “The daughters of Tzlofchad have spoken well,” and teaches Moshe what to do in inheritance cases such as this one. The Midrash praises these five women for three things: Their wisdom in asking the question; the zechut that Hashem agreed to their suggestion: and for their love of Eretz Yisrael.

This expression “Lama yi-gara” appears in a similar form in only one other place in the Torah, also in Sefer Bemidbar – Parshat Beha’alotekha. There, Am Yisrael are getting ready for the grand march into Eretz Yisrael (before they began complaining and sinning, which led to forty years of wandering in the desert). In Perek 9, they bring the korban pesach, as commanded, and a few men who could not bring the sacrifice because they were teme’im – ritually impure due to contact with the dead – came to Moshe Rabbeinu and say, “Lama nigara’ le-vilti hakriv et korban Hashem be-mo’ado be-tokh benei yisrael?” “Why should we be excluded from bringing Hashem’s korban in its time, amongst Bnei Yisrael?” Yalkut Shim’oni comments that their request shows that these were good, righteous people, who cared deeply about the mitzvot and wanted to do them properly. Here, too, Moshe brings their case to Hashem, and Hashem responds positively: They may bring the korban Pesach a month later, on what we call “Pesach Sheini,” so that they won’t be left out of this important mitzvah.

How are these two stories connected? There are many cases in Sefer Bemidbar in which people take the initiative to speak to Moshe, but unfortunately, most of them are to complain – about the manna, the meat, the water, the leadership, and more. But these are two cases in which people take the initiative to speak to Moshe about how they don’t want to be left out of an important religious experience. These people are “complaining” that they won’t get to bring the korban Pesach, or to have a chelek ve-nachalah in Hashem’s special land. These men and women are looking to come closer to Hashem, and Hashem is happy to respond to these requests positively. Furthermore, they both emphasize being “betokh” – amongst Am Yisrael. Their goal was to be part of the holy nation, together keeping the mitvzot and inheriting the land.

May we live up to the example of these men and women by looking for ways to take the initiative to come closer to Hashem, along with all of Am Yisrael.




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