09 Jul Parshas Pinchas/The Three Weeks: From Brisk to Jerusalem
In this week’s parsha, Parshas Pinchas, we learn of the Bnos Tzelafchad, מַחְלָה נֹעָה, חָגְלָה מִלְכָּה וְתִרְצָה, from the tribe of Menashe ben Yosef, whose father died without leaving sons. As the Bnei Yisrael prepare to enter the Holy Land under the leadership of Yehoshua bin Nun (Bamidbar 27:15-23) these five righteous women approach Moshe with a novel request.
אָבִינוּ, מֵת בַּמִּדְבָּר, our father died in the desert…לָמָּה יִגָּרַע שֵׁם-אָבִינוּ מִתּוֹךְ מִשְׁפַּחְתּוֹ, כִּי אֵין לוֹ בֵּן; תְּנָה-לָּנוּ אֲחֻזָּה, בְּתוֹךְ אֲחֵי אָבִינוּ, why should the name of our father be omitted from among his family because he had no sons? Give us a possession among our father’s brothers. Unsure of how to proceed, Moshe brings their case before G-d (27:1-5).
And Hashem said to Moshe, saying: כֵּן, בְּנוֹת צְלָפְחָד דֹּבְרֹת–נָתֹן תִּתֵּן לָהֶם אֲחֻזַּת נַחֲלָה, בְּתוֹךְ אֲחֵי אֲבִיהֶם; וְהַעֲבַרְתָּ אֶת-נַחֲלַת אֲבִיהֶן, לָהֶן – The daughter of Tzelafchad speak properly. You shall surely give them a possession of inheritance among the brothers of their father, and you shall cause the inheritance of their father to pass over to them (v.6-7).
Interestingly, immediately after the chapter of the Bnos Tzelafchad, the Torah tells us of Moshe’s banishment from the land. And G-d said to Moshe, עֲלֵה אֶל-הַר הָעֲבָרִים הַזֶּה; וּרְאֵה, אֶת-הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נָתַתִּי, לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, Ascend to this Mt. Avarim and see the land that I have given to the Children of Israel. You shall see it and you shall be brought in to your people… because you rebelled against My word at the waters of strife… (12-14). Due to his actions at Mei Merivah (Bamidbar 20:1-13), Moshe was forever banned from entering Eretz Yisrael, both in life, and in death.
It is interesting that this parsha, with its thematic topics related to Eretz Yisrael, is read during the mournful time of Bein Ha’Meitzarim, the Three Weeks of mourning for Churban Batei Mikdash and galus, exile, from our beloved land.
During the saddest time on the Jewish calendar year, when we diminish rejoicing and festivities as a sign of aveilus, mourning, we read of those who desired to enter, and take a portion of, the Land. From our great leader Moshe Rabbeinu, to five heroic women in the desert, love for the Land of Israel, and longing to return to her, is a trademark of our nation.
In 1972, thirty years after the city of Brisk was liquidated R”L by the Nazis y’s, at a commemoration event held by former residents of Brisk living in E”Y, Menachem Begin delivered the keynote address. In this never before translated speech, Begin reminisced and waxed poetic: “In the midst of their innocence, our fathers, in their faith, loved the Land of Israel. We still remember how they prayed for rain in the Land of Israel. Not rain for the land on which they lived, and from whose soil they lived, but rain for the Land of Israel. They pleaded for the Land of Israel, cleaved to it. They would say, ‘the Land of Israel,’ in holiness and purity. And when they recited the grace after meals, coming to the words ‘and rebuild Jerusalem’ – their eyes would flow with tears. How they would articulate the name ‘Jerusalem’. They loved the Land of Israel.
“We will remember their love and sanctify it just as we merited to free the Land of Israel and redeem Jerusalem. ‘And the priests and the people, standing in the courtyard of the Temple’ – this was the prayer they recited. And the day came that we redeemed Jerusalem, and we have dug into its dirt, and we have walked the path and so we have seen the Gates of Chuldah (that lead into the Temple). They are still locked. And behold the mighty stones the Roman legions threw downward, covering the gates for 1,800 years. But they are before our eyes. Recalling your prayers in the synagogue, over 50 years ago: standing there (on the Temple Mt.), by the southern wall, you can see in your mind’s eye the Gates of Chulda, and the masses of people flocking through them. ‘No one in Jerusalem (who arrived for the pilgrimage festivals) ever said, ‘I don’t have enough room’ (Avos 5:5). That is: It was not said! It was tightly packed, but no one complained that it was too crowded in Jerusalem. The masses, thousands of them, came to Jerusalem – a city of 600,000 souls, in the time of King David. They ascended to the Gates of Chuldah through the courtyard and the women’s courtyard – and you can see it, as if it were yesterday…
“Brisk. From there we came. But we were born in Jerusalem… Gratitude to our fathers, gratitude for their love of the Land of Israel, gratitude for their prayers, gratitude for their faith in the coming of the Moshiach. ‘And even though he may tarry, nevertheless I await his coming.’ Our parents did not have the opportunity, but their children after them conquered the ‘beginning of redemption.’ And so with love of Israel, with love for the Land of Israel and for Jerusalem, we will sanctify their scattered ashes, elevate their souls in holiness and purity, and carry in our hearts the memory of their love (for the land) from generation to generation.”
In the Book of Lamentations, the prophet weeps the cry of generations:
מָה-אֲעִידֵךְ מָה אֲדַמֶּה-לָּךְ, הַבַּת יְרוּשָׁלִַם–מָה אַשְׁוֶה-לָּךְ וַאֲנַחֲמֵךְ, בְּתוּלַת בַּת-צִיּוֹן: כִּי-גָדוֹל כַּיָּם שִׁבְרֵךְ, מִי יִרְפָּא-לָךְ – What shall I testify for you? What shall I compare to you, O daughter of Jerusalem? What can I liken to you, that I may comfort you, O virgin daughter of Zion? For your ruin is as vast as the sea – who can heal you? (Eichah 2:13).
As we mourn once again for the destruction of our Temple, city, and Land, let us recall the prayer of generations of Jews who came before us, in every city and land of our wandering, for the restoration and healing that G-d has promised our nation and Eretz Yisrael.
My grandfather, Yitzchak ben Moshe a’h, wrote in his Holocaust memoirs: “Reb Peretz Feder and I slept on one pallet (in the concentration camp) and talked continually about the murderers that they were sent by G-d and their end is near. We suffer now so that Moshiach will come. Whoever will survive this hell will see a Jewish state…”
We have lived, B”H to see the Jewish state my grandfather could only dream of. Halavay – would that it be! – that we merit to see the ultimate salvation, and an end to our suffering, mourning, exile and pain, with everlasting redemption for our people and our Land.
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,