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The daughters of Zelophchad asked Moshe and the Elders “ Why should the name of our father be taken away from among his family, because he had no sons? Give to us therefore a possession among the brothers of our father.” Zelophchad’s daughters approached Moshe and the Elders in the aftermath of the national census taken as preparation for settling the Land of Israel (see generally BaMidbar 26 and 26:53).
Mahlah, Noah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Tirzah, Zelophchad’s five daughters according to the Sifri when they heard the apportionment of the Land of Israel was connected to the census which was exclusively male they sought to appeal their situation before G-D, reasoning; Flesh and blood appears to have greater compassion towards males than female therefore let us bring our case before G-D whose compassion is equal between men and women.
Yet, at first blush what is so remarkable? As Rabbi Dov Lior Shlita (Dvar Hevron on Jewish Outlook and Faith, Hashkafa V’Emunah pg. 85) if others who are in similar circumstances are receiving a benefit those who find themselves excluded for nothing more than a technical reason would try to get their fair share. However, Zelophchad’s daughters come from the Tribe of Menashe half of which settled with Reuven and Gad in the lands across the river on the East side of the Jordan. (see BaMidbar 32:33).
However Zelophchad’s daughters insisted on receiving land within Israel proper on the West of the Jordan expressing their how deeply they valued and yearned for the Land of Israel like their progenitor Joseph.(see Sifiri cited by the Malbim on Bamidbar 27:1 and Bereshith 50:25). Rabbi Naftali Zvi Berlin ZT’L ZY’A in Hamek D’var (BaMidbar 27:4) “ . . . Give to us therefore a possession among the brothers of our father.“) asking for a portion among their father’s brothers implies not just among the clans of Menashe but the Tribes themselves.
Rabbi Lior marvels at Zelophchad’s daughters why would they be insistent on the Land of Israel and not just to receive a landed legacy from their deceased father? None of these ladies had ever visited the Land of Israel and little idea what they would find when they arrived or if they personally would ever take possession of their portion since no one knew how long it would take to gain control of and settle the Land of Israel, still it was Israel or nothing. Rabbi Lior concludes herein lies a lesson for all generations. Zelophchad’s daughters chose to have an unshakeable faith in G-D’s promises. Zelophchad’s daughters longed for the Land of Israel despite all the logic and facts that reduced the likelihood of realizing their aspiration to wishful thinking. It did not matter G-D’s promise is firm and unshakeable.
Zelophchad’s daughters overcame the doubts raised by the spies who exchanged faith for logic and facts. Zelophchad’s daughters example was emulated for generations of Jewish women who before lighting Shabbat Candles would contribute to a Rabbi Meir Baal Hanes fund to support Jews living in the Land of Israel. Every Jewish community would sponsor a national organization called a Kollel that would collect funds from Jews in its district like Galicia or Hungry or Poland etc . . . and distribute these funds and otherwise provide for their countrymen living in the Land of Israel. Twersky, the family name adopted by the Zaddikim of Chernobyl was a modification of Tiberias the city on the Galilee where most Israel based Chassidim lived at that time. Rabbi Dovid Liebowitz ZT’L ZY’A founder of Yeshivat Rabbinu Yisrael Meir HaCohen Baal Chofetz Chaim used his first pay check from Yeshiva Torah V’Dath to purchase property in Israel, The Imrei Chaim of Vishnitz ZT’L ZY’A took great joy from merely hear the word Jerusalem. How many examples are there in Jewish practice that affirm faith in G-D’s promise over logic and facts?
During the Three Weeks it is not enough to mourn what was lost long ago but to nurture the spark of yearning fueled by faith following in the footsteps first made by Zelophchad’s daughters.