Parshas Pinchas: The Women Who Loved the Land

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Pinchas, we read of the Bnos Tzelafchad, the five daughters of Tzelafchad – Machlah, Noah, Choglah, Milkah and Tirtzah – who approached Moshe with a unique and unusual request.  Our father died in the desert…and he did not have sons.  Why should the name of our father be omitted from among his family because he had no son?  תְּנָה-לָּנוּ אֲחֻזָּה, בְּתוֹךְ אֲחֵי אָבִינוּ – Give us a possession (of the Land) among our father’s brothers (Bamidbar 27:1-4).

And Moshe brought their query before Hashem, and Hashem said: כֵּן, בְּנוֹת צְלָפְחָד דֹּבְרֹת–נָתֹן תִּתֵּן לָהֶם אֲחֻזַּת נַחֲלָה, בְּתוֹךְ אֲחֵי אֲבִיהֶם; וְהַעֲבַרְתָּ אֶת-נַחֲלַת אֲבִיהֶן, לָהֶן – The daughters 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 (ibid, v.7).

Moreover, as the book of Bamidbar closes, and the final parsha – Masei – is read, we once again are reminded of the story of the daughters of Tzelafchad (Bamidbar 36).  As we close the book of “Bamidbar – In The Desert” the final lingering lesson is: this is not your place, keep your eyes facing forward, and your feet marching towards, the final and ultimate destination.  You are currently In The Desert, but the goal is The Holy Land, for which the daughters of Tzelafchad yearned.

Unlike the spies and the generation who rejected the land (Bamidbar 13-14), the daughters of Tzelafchad embraced the land. 

As Moshe prepared to send the spies, thirty-eight years prior to the request of the daughters of Tzelafchad, the pasuk (verse) says: שְׁלַח-לְךָ אֲנָשִׁים, וְיָתֻרוּ אֶת-אֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן, אֲשֶׁר-אֲנִי נֹתֵן, לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל – And Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying: Send forth for yourself men, and let them spy out the Land of Canaan that I give to the Children of Israel; one man each from his fathers’  tribe shall you send, every one a leader among them (Bamidbar 13:1-2). 

On the above verse, the Kli Yakar (d.1619, Prague), connects the sin of the spies with the story of the daughters of Tzelafchad, and fascinatingly comments:

ד”א לכך פרט אנשים, לפי שארז”ל (ילקו”ש פנחס תשעג כז) האנשים היו שונאים את הארץ, ואמרו נתנה ראש ונשובה מצרימה (במדבר יד ד) והנשים היו מחבבות הארץ ואמרו תנה לנו אחזה (שם כז ד). וע”כ אמר הקב”ה, לפי דעתי שאני רואה בעתיד, היה יותר טוב לשלוח נשים המחבבות את הארץ, כי לא יספרו בגנותה, אבל לך לדעתך שאתה סבור שכשרים המה, ואתה סבור שהארץ חביבה עליהם תשלח אנשים. וזהו שלח לך לדעתך אנשים, אבל לדעתי היה יותר טוב לשלוח נשים כאמור

And another reason that the verse says (when G-d spoke to Moshe, in regard to the mission of the spies) send for yourself men: Because the Sages say, the men hated the land and they said, “let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt (Bamidbar 14:4)” and the women loved the land, and they said “give us a portion (of the land) (ibid 27:4).”  Therefore, Hashem said to Moshe: according to My opinion – what I see in the future, it would be better to send women (as the scouts to investigate the Land), who love and desire the land, because they will not speak disparagingly of the land.  But for you, according to your opinion, Moshe, you are sure that these men are righteous and upstanding, and you are sure that the land is beloved to them, send for yourself men.  And that is why it says, שְׁלַח-לְךָ אֲנָשִׁים – Send for yourself, according to your opinion, men.  But according to My opinion, it would be better to send women

What an incredible pshat (explanation)!  The women of that generation, represented by the daughters of Tzelafchad, desired the land, loved the land and embraced the land.  Hence – give us a portion, even though our father had no son.  And to their request, Hashem replied: כֵּן, בְּנוֹת צְלָפְחָד דֹּבְרֹת. 

Compelling to consider the lashon (language) of the verse – כֵּן, בְּנוֹת צְלָפְחָד דֹּבְרֹת.  The daughters of Tzelafchad have spoken properly and well.  Whereas the spies spoke slander regarding the Land: וַיֹּצִיאוּ דִּבַּת הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר תָּרוּ אֹתָהּ – they (the spies) brought forth an evil report on the land that they had spied out (Bamidbar 13:32); the daughters of Tzelafchad spoke positively and well.  For this, they were beautifully rewarded as their request was heard and accepted. 

Miriam Peretz writes, “My sons wanted to serve in the IDF.  They wanted it to be a service of life.  They didn’t want to die.  They viewed military service as a mitzvah and a privilege, not an obligation…

“They saw their father working as a volunteer to establish the Beit Knesset in Givat Ze’ev.  They saw me, a religious mother, sending her children to study in religious schools, but choosing to serve as principal of a special secular school in which pupils explore their identity and are connected to their homeland and their roots… We educated our children to love this land and our country, our people with all its different kinds of individuals, and our splendid Jewish heritage.

“I didn’t think I could be an example of love of country to them, because for many years I have felt that I hadn’t done enough for my country.  What had I done, after all?  I didn’t dry any swamps or pave any roads.  I hadn’t even served in the army.  I made aliyah to something ready-made, a country already built and developed. 

“Today I have no such pangs of conscience.  I gave, twice.  I paid the price of our existence here, I paid my debt to the state.  Despite all the sorrow, pain and longing, I know this was the most appropriate death for my sons.  If I could wake them up for just a moment and ask, I have no doubt that each of them would say that he was willing to give his life again, so that children in the north and south could sleep safely, play on the playground, and enjoy a peaceful life…” (Miriam’s Song, p.319-320).

As we prepare for the bitter and painful day of Tisha B’Av, when our forefathers rejected the Holy Land, let us hope and pray that our longing, love, appreciation, and positivity for The Land of Israel and for Am Yisrael will be enough to merit us the ultimate redemption, may it be immediate and in our days, amen!

בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,


1 Comment
  • Sharon
    Posted at 11:10h, 05 July

    beautiful Michal…tears of appreciation