Torah Fax

Friday, July 16, 2004 - 27 Tammuz, 5764

Torah Reading:  Mattos - Massei (Numbers 30:2 - 36:13)
Candle Lighting Time:  8:07 PM
Shabbat Ends: 9:13 PM
We bless the New Month of Menachem Av

The Great Equalizer 

In last week's Parshah, the Torah recounted how Machalah, Tirtzah, Hoglah, Milkah and Noah, the five daughters of Tzelaphechad, demanded of Moses that they should inherit their father's share in the Land of Israel, since he left no sons to inherit his portion.

G‑d agreed, however, He commanded the daughters of Tzelaphechad to only marry within their own tribe. Since the identity of the tribe is established by the father, if the daughters of Tzelaphechad would have married out of their tribe, the land would have passed to their sons, thus effectively transferring the land of their tribe to the hands of another tribe. In this week's Parshah, the Torah discusses how they fulfilled that directive and married only within their tribe.

When the Torah lists their names in our Parshah, they are listed in a different order than in last week's Parshah. Rashi, the primary Bible commentator, explains that previously they were listed in the order of their intelligence, but here - where the Torah describes their marriage - the Torah lists them by age. Rashi then concludes, "the fact that the Torah lists their names in a different order teaches us that they were all equal."

Rashi's words appear to be problematic. On the one hand, Rashi states that they were listed in the order of their intelligence, implying that they were not equal, yet here Rashi claims that they were indeed equal? How could there be a significant difference between them in terms of their intelligence, and yet, they were still all regarded as equal?

First let us take note of the context in which their names are mentioned in this week's Parshah as opposed to last week's Parshah. In the previous Parsha, the Torah's portrays the daughters of Tzelaphechad as women who were endowed with great intelligence and who were capable of making logical and halachically convincing arguments for their right to inherit their father's share of the Land of Israel.

In this week's Parsha, however, they are portrayed as women who were sensitive to G‑d's commandment that they should only marry within their tribe. The daughters of Tzelaphechad, could have easily criticized this provision as unfair because it would limit the pool of eligible husbands for them. Just as they had argued to Moses previously, demonstrating to him that their claim for the land was fair and just, they could have just as easily demonstrated their intellectual and oratorical skills in convincing Moses that the limitation on their marriage choices was unfair.

But they didn't make any such complaint. Earlier, when they requested to inherit their father's land, there had been no express directive with regard to that matter. In this case, however, G‑d clearly told Moses whom they may marry - and whom they may not.

Despite the different level of intelligence that these five righteous women possessed, the Torah in this week's Parshah demonstrates that they were all equal, because living in conformance with the dictates of the Torah - even when it goes against one understanding and interests - is far superior to intellectual achievement. True, there is great emphasis placed by Judaism on study and intellectual development, but the requirement to follow G‑d's path is of far greater importance. While there are so many differences between us intellectually and other ways, the great equalizer is when we are committed to following G‑d's commandments, even, nay especially, when it goes against our personal convenience and preference.

Indeed, what makes knowledge great is when that knowledge goes hand in hand with action. This is summed up in the Talmudic discussion as to which is greater, Torah study or practice of the commandments. The Talmud concludes, "Study is greater, because it leads to action." In other words, the study of Torah attains the most exalted position in Judaism, when it translates into action.

These great women, who were endowed with both wisdom and piety, forged the way for the Jewish people to enter into the Promised Land. Similarly, the Jewish women (and men) of our generation were given the special challenge to forge the way towards the ultimate Redemption with the coming of Moshiach.

When Maimonides, describes the "resume" of the Jewish leader who is qualified to be the Moshiach, he lists the following: "He must be diligent in the study of Torah and be preoccupied with the commandments." To accomplish the task of Moshiach - liberating the world and making it holy - we must all combine the knowledge of Judaism with its practice, with the emphasis on practice.  

Moshiach Matters

A person who can find good in everyone personifies the aspect of Moshiach... Moshiach will be the defending counsel for all of Israel, even the wicked. (Imrei Pinchas) 
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