Pinhas 2014

כֵּן בְּנוֹת צְלָפְחָד דֹּבְרֹת

The daughters of Tzelofhad are correct

   Like many of you, I’ve been keeping a close eye on everything that has been happening in Israel this past week. The escalation of missile attacks, the air attacks, and the talk of a ground invasion make me very nervous about what the coming days and weeks will bring. In addition to the physical toll this is taking on the Israeli population, there is another battle being waged as well, namely a PR campaign geared towards delegitimizing Israel’s right to exist.

   By utilizing social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, hundreds of articles and pictures have been posted either supporting Israel or Hamas. The only common thread between these two opposing sides is their certainty in their position. The pro-Israeli side believes with 100% certainty that they have every right to defend themselves against the terror organization Hamas. The pro-Palestinian side believes with 100% certainty that the State of Israel does not have any right to exist, let alone oppress them and restrict their lives. Very different views on the same situation, yet both stated with complete certainty that their view is, indeed, the correct one.

   What are we to do? On the one hand- as Jews we feel a strong connection to the State of Israel and want to support its existence. On the other hand- we understand that there are many complex issues involved and maybe we shouldn’t proffer an opinion lest it be ill-received by our social circles. The safe decision would be to remain quiet on this issue and pray (privately) that peace prevail in Israel. But is this the correct decision to make?

   In this week’s parasha we read about the daughters of Tzelofhad who petitioned Moses for their ancestral inheritance in the Land of Israel. As background, Tzelofhad had only daughters to inherit him and the daughters were nervous that they would lose their father’s portion in the Land since he did not have any sons to inherit it. Moses consulted with the Almighty who stated that in this situation the daughters would inherit their father’s portion.

   This seems to be nothing more than a legal decision brought before Moses (who served as chief arbitrator in the Wilderness) who codified a new ruling based on this unique case. By reading through the various commentaries, however, you can find many new insights to what may have been going on behind the scenes.

   The Midrash (Sifri Zuta Piska 27) writes that there are certain individuals who are worthy to receive all the merits of their generation. For instance, Noah was the one righteous man to live during the period before the flood and as such was worthy of their merits. Abraham was another such individual and so were the daughters of Tzelofhad. The Midrash reports that the daughters of Tzelofhad lived during a generation where the majority of Jews wanted to turn their backs on the Land of Israel and return to Egypt (see Numbers 14:4), but they held firm to their convictions and fought for a portion of the Land that so many of their coreligionists had forsaken.

   We live in a similar generation. We read articles and posts that attack Israel and wonder what our response should be. If we say something it may add more fuel to the fire. So, often we decide to remain silent.

   The message of Tzelofhad’s daughters is to speak up for the Land of Israel. Even in a generation of people turning their backs on it, we are duty bound to defend our homeland. If we don’t speak up, then the only messages that will come through will be those calling for Israel’s annihilation. Tzelofhad’s daughters are given such prominence in Jewish tradition precisely because they chose to side with Israel even when it wasn’t the popular thing to do.

We continue to pray for the safety of all those in harm’s way in Israel and look forward to a peaceful resolution of this conflict.