Each week we feature a different outstanding Florida Rabbi.
Rabbi Dr. Chaim Shapiro
Congregation Torah Ohr
We live in a time when certain sections of our society often make public demonstrations, to express their feelings for what is perceived as their innate rights. We saw this in the Miami area related to the Elian Gonzalez case. Also, we often see the bizarre spectacles of various social segments - minorities, ethnic groups, and various forms of social dissidents, like homosexuals, - demanding their perceived legitimization of their status - their acceptance by the general community. In Judaism, we see how this type of concern is handled by Moses - perhaps as both a guide to our present concerns of the 'Women's Lib' movement and to the basic approach of our faith.
The daughters of Zelophechod make an appointment with Moses, to discuss their grievance. Notice - not media blitz - no public demonstrations or parades. Their argument involves the inheritance of their father in Israel. Since there are no sons - the normal Biblical primary heirs - they ask Moses for the future inheritance to be given to them. After consulting with G-d, Moses declares that they are entitled to be the secondary heirs, - a monumental decision, which indicates Judaism's sensitivity to women's rights.
In this episode, there is a curious aspect that I would like to explore with you. In discussing this family, the Torah lists them as the 'daughters of Zelophechod, the family of Menasheh, the son of Joseph'. Rashi picks up on this verse, questioning why the Torah, known for its terseness and brevity, bothers to mention Joseph. As being members of the tribe of Menashch - that is understandable. The division of land was based on tribal groups. However, why bother to mention - 'the son of Joseph?' Rashi replies that these women reflected a tradition, stemming from Joseph, in their love of the land of Israel That is, even though they could have entered the land of Israel, and even lived there, their love was so great that they also wanted to own a portion of the land. Their love motivated them beyond the economic value, to possess a share in the holy land. We see this in the famous purchase of the 'M'orot HaMachpela' by Abraham. Offered as a gift, he insisted on its purchase, buying it with a price much higher than the market value.
The late great Jewish leader, also called 'Moshe' - R. Moshe Feinstein - explained this idea as being related with the law of a Torah scroll. R. Moshe points out that the 'Rosh' rules that not only is every Jew required to write a Torah, but he must also buy a Torah. If one is truly going to appreciate the Torah and its teachings, he must express his love in a stronger and deeper manner. Thus, he rules that a Jew is required to own a Torah, to purchase it, as a symbol of true love!!
Let us turn back a moment and reflect upon the idea that these daughters of Zelophechod learned to love Israel from their ancestor, Joseph. We are told that Joseph, isolated from his own family - the only Jew living in Egypt at the time, insisted on studying the Torah taught to him by his father. He also taught it to his children, even as he was the Viceroy of Egypt. He taught them that Egypt was only a temporary abode for Jews, even when they lived in luxury. The rest of Jacob's family moved to Egypt, but the eternal permanent home for Jews was in Israel. This idea was passed on to his descendants. Thus, these girls had this great desire to live in Israel and to possess a part for themselves.
Reb. Moshe completes his comments by pointing out that if a person performs a good deed because he recognizes its importance, this is commendable. However, if he does it as a tradition from his parents and/or ancestors - because he is a descendant from Joseph or some other role-model figure, the deed gains in stature! It becomes raised even more when we take this tradition - and add a personal touch - an element of love - enthusiasm and appreciation! In this case, a display of love for our holy land of Israel - we should learn to emulate today!
At this period of the '3 Weeks' - when Jews throughout the world mourn the loss of our holy Temple - the Bet HaMikdosh of Jerusalem - and the accompanying loss of our land - the message of 'Bnot Zelophechod' is especially important, Not only because they showed their determination as Jewish women - but because of their deep and profound love for our holy land, The land tied in with our ancestors, The land tied in with our a faith,The land tied in with our traditions. This is the example that we should all try to emulate!