parashat pinchas - A New Generation

הרב שבתי סבתו
כג תמוז תשעו
לרשימת השיעורים לחץ כאן
Most of the mitzvot in the Torah were taught according to a pre-determined plan. However, some legal passages were stated in response to particular events and incidents. !is might give ris
דור חדש
A New Generation
An Inheritance in the Land of Israel
Moshe Rabbeinu was chosen by G-d to give over His Torah to His People,
Israel, and he did so faithfully and devotedly:
18רָ ה צִ 4 ָה לָ נ4 מֹ/ֶ ה מ1רָ /ָ ה קְ הִ *ַ ת יַ %$ קֹב.
Moshe commanded us the Torah,
a legacy to the congregation of Yaakov. (D’varim 33,4)
Most of the mitzvot in the Torah were taught according to a pre-determined
plan. However, some legal passages were stated in response to particular
events and incidents. !is might give rise to the impression, so gravely
mistaken, that if these events had not occurred, the Torah would not have
given these mitzvot at all!
A perfect example of a mitzvah taught in seeming response to an event
is one of the Laws of Inheritance. We read in Parashat Pinchas of the
daughters of Tzelofchad, who appeared on the scene as Eretz Yisrael
was being apportioned to Bnei Yisrael. Tzelofchad’s daughters asked to
receive a portion of their late father’s inheritance. !ey explained that
he had left only daughters and no sons, and that under the existing law,
his estate would fall totally to his brothers. “Why should our father’s
name be eliminated from his family because he had no son?” they asked.
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Moshe did not have a ready response, and brought the question before
Hashem. Hashem justified the daughters of Tzelofchad, and took the
opportunity to teach laws of inheritance in general:
וְ אֶ ל ;ְ נֵ י יִ =ְ רָ אֵ ל %ְ דַ ;ֵ ר לֵ אמֹר: אִ י8 7 ִי יָ מ3ת 3בֵ 0 אֵ י0 ל. וְ הַ +* בַ רְ %ֶ $ אֶ ת
נַ ח* לָ ת. לְ בִ %.. וְ אִ $ אֵ י0 ל. ;ַ ת ... לְ חֻ B ַת מִ 8 ְA ָט...
Speak to Israel and say: If a man dies with no sons,
you shall transfer his inheritance to his daughter.
And if he has no daughter... is shall remain
a decreed statute... (Bamidbar 27,8-11)
What would have happened had the daughters of Tzelofchad not come
forward with their demand? Would these laws never gave been given? Our
Sages of the Medrash give us the answer:
e laws of inheritance could have been taught by Moshe Rabbeinu
- but the daughters of Tzelofchad merited that it was taught through
them, for merits are effected via those who are meritorious, and bad
things via those who are liable. (Yalkut Shimoni, end of 773)
What is the nature of this “merit,” and why did this law need to be taught
via the daughters of Tzelofchad?
In general, the laws of inheritance deal with monetary matters between
family generations. However, the Hebrew word nachalah used in this
context – as in “Laws of Nachalot” in the Rambam’s law code – refers to a
parcel of the Land of Israel, above and beyond a mere inheritance. !ere is
no place in the world, other than Eretz Yisrael, where a piece of land that
belongs to a Jew is called a nachalah, for only in the Land of Israel do Jews
have such intrinsic ties.
And so, this special passage patiently waited 40 years to be taught – the
years of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness – until they reached Eretz
It is because Hashem wanted Israel to accept with love and appreciation
this law of transferring inheritance rights to brother-less daughters. !e law
had to wait until the entry to the Land, so that Israel could witness special
women, Tzelofchad’s daughters, dreaming and aspiring to live there. !ey
openly expressed their love for the land: “Grant us an inheritance among
our father’s brothers.” (27,4)
266 | B orne Upon a Spirit | Vatisa’eni Ruach
eir request included these words of introduction:
אָ בִ ינ: מֵ ת +ַ >ִ דְ +ָ ר וְ ה:א 9א הָ יָ ה +ְ ת63 הָ *ֵ דָ ה הַ 34 ָ*דִ י/ *ַ ל ה' +ַ *( דַ ת קֹרַ ח,
he was not among the rebels against G-d with Korach;
C ִי בְ חֶ טְ א3 מֵ ת :בָ נִ י/ 9א הָ י: ל3.
Our father died in the desert;
he rather died of his own sin,
and he had no sons. (verse 3)
Why did they have to add that he was not a member of Korach’s gang?
ey wished to emphasize that their father had no share with those who so
negatively railed against Moshe and the Land of Israel, saying, “Not only did
you take us from a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the desert...
you did not even bring us into a land of milk and honey!” (16,13-14)
“Unlike Korach,” the women said, “our father left us a legacy of love and
longing for the Land of Israel. His death was unconnected with the general,
national sin of spurning the Land.”
In response to this plea, Hashem taught Moshe the law by stating:
C ֵG ְ+ נ3ת צְ לָ פְ חָ ד Dֹבְ רֹת ...
"e daughters of Tzelofchad speak correctly... (27,7)
is interesting phrase does not only mean that they are correct and
justified, but rather that they are sincere and genuine – just as Joseph’s
brothers told him that they were כני” ,sincere men” (B’reshit 42,11). G-d was
telling Moshe what he was unable to understand for himself, namely, that
these women were not out simply to acquire property, but were truly
sincere in their love and longing for the Promised Land.
Moshe thus learned that this was a new generation, very different than
the previous one that had such great difficulty separating from its land of
Moavite, not Moavitess
Let us compare this to another law that was hidden for many years. e heads
of the Sanhedrin passed it down quietly from generation to generation,
until they found the proper person by which it could be publicly revealed.
e law concerns the Biblical prohibition on marrying a Moavite:
A Ne w Generation | Pinchas | 267
8א יָ בֹא (ַ 6%נִ י 4מ%אָ בִ י /ִ קְ הַ ל ה'... (ַ ד ע%לָ ".
(ַ ל <ְ בַ ר אA ֶ@ ר 8א קִ <ְ מ4 אֶ תְ כֶ " /ַ ;ֶ חֶ " 4בַ 6 ַיִ "...
An Ammonite and Moavite must not enter into G-d’s
and water on your way out of Egypt. (D’varim 23,4-5)
congregation... forever, for they did not greet you with bread
e law certainly sounds all-inclusive against members of these nations.
In truth, however, Moshe learned on Mount Sinai that it actually prohibits
only Moavite men, and not their women, for the verse says “Moavite”
and not “Moavitess.” Yet, Moshe did not divulge this ruling for several
generations. It had to wait until Ruth the Moavitess came onto the scene
with her deep dedication to true kindness, and thus became the vehicle by
which we learned that Moavite women are permitted to marry into Israel.
Once again, “merits are activated via those who are meritorious.” e point
of departure for the revelation of a new law must be pure and complete,
and totally identical to the content of the law.
An Unknown Law
Moshe didn’t know the Halakhah on this issue that Tzelofchad’s daughters
raised, and the Torah tells us that he had to “bring their case before Hashem”
(Bamidbar 27,5). What was so hard about their question? What was special
about it that it had to be brought before the Heavenly Court?
Rashi explains, based on the Medrash, that the law was concealed from
Moshe in punishment for what he said when he accepted the advice of his
father-in-law Yitro. Yitro had suggested that Moshe set up various levels of
courts, with Moshe himself hearing only the most difficult cases. Moshe
accepted this advice, and told Israel,
... וְ הַ <ָ בָ ר אA ֶ@ ר יִ קְ @ֶ ה מִ F " ֶC ַקְ רִ יבE4 אֵ לַ י 4 ְ@מַ (ְ C ִיו.
bring it before me and I will hear it. (D’varim 1,17)
...that which is too hard for you,
ese words show a trace of boastfulness, as if Moshe sees himself as the
final arbiter – the man who can solve complex legal issues that the highest-
ranking judges cannot. For this reason, this difficult case came before him,
and he was made to see that he didn’t have all the answers.
But this explanation of Rashi is peculiar. Yitro gave this idea to Moshe
shortly after the People of Israel entered the desert, close to 40 years before
268 | B orne Upon a Spirit | Vatisa’eni Ruach
Tzelofchad’s daughters presented their question. Why would Hashem wait
so long to punish Moshe for the trace of arrogance he showed years before?
In addition, how can Moshe, of all people, be accused of arrogance? !e
Torah itself says, “Moshe was very humble, more than anyone else on the face
of the earth” (Bamidbar 12,3). In this case, Moshe was merely implementing
Yitro’s advice of dividing up the legal cases, so that he, the backbone of the
people, would not collapse under the heavy load.
To understand what Rashi meant and why Moshe could not answer the
daughters of Tzelofchad, we must return to Parashat Yitro and study the
advice he gave Moshe. Yitro saw him sitting all day long and arbitrating
disputes, and asked him,
מַ 8 ַ%>אַ >ָ ה י;:ֵ ב לְ בַ 8 . ֶוְ כָ ל הָ %ָ 3 נִ 1 ָב %ָ לֶ י. מִ + *ֹקֶ ר %ַ ד %ָ רֶ ב...
נָ בֹל >ִ *ֹל D ַ3 אַ >ָ ה D ַ3 הָ %ָ 3 הַ C ֶה אB ֶ: ר %ִ A...@ ָ
Why do you sit alone, with the entire populace standing upon
you from morning to evening? ... You will surely wear away,
On the face of it, Yitro seems to be quite justified. Moshe Rabbeinu must
certainly delegate some of his authorities to the ranks under him. How can
he waste his time on petty disputes that could easily be dealt with by those
on a lower level than him?
But it’s not just a question of a waste of time. Sometimes, a great man who
deals with petty arguments and little quarrels finds that this mars his own
spirituality. His thoughts become more small-minded and of narrower scope,
and his long-range vision begins to contract. He finds himself viewing things
through the glasses of those who come to him with their trivial disputes, and
he finds it hard to rise up and see reality from a few rungs higher.
Yitro, a man of importance among his own people, understands this point
very well. It is therefore natural that he should advise Moshe how best to
manage and lead the people in a way that will enable him to retain the
For Moshe Rabbeinu, however, this was not the main point. What was
central for Moshe was that every Jew, no matter how simple, should be
directly connected with Hashem’s word, without intermediaries. Moshe’s
direct encounter with the people uplifted them to high levels of direct
both you and this people with you... (Sh’mot 18,14-18)
A Ne w Generation | Pinchas | 269
is represents mesirut nefesh, self-sacrifice, on Moshe’s part. e greatest
man of his generation, he was still willing to cede the tremendous heights he
could have reached, for the good of his people. is is particularly manifest
in his words to his loyal servant, Yehoshua bin Nun:
,מִ י יִ 2 ֵ1 4 ָל )ַ ! ה' נְ בִ יאִ י! 4 ִי יִ 2 ֵ1 ה' אֶ ת ר,ח* )' לֵ יהֶ !.
Would that all Hashem’s people were prophets,
so that G-d would put His spirit upon them. (Bamidbar 11,29)
Moshe did not want to raise himself higher than the people. e opposite
was true, as we saw above: “!e man Moshe was very humble, more than
any other man on the face of the earth.”
Still, in the end, Moshe listened to his father-in-law’s advice. He appointed
“rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties and rulers of tens”
(Sh’mot 18,25), leaving them to deal with the easier, routine issues, but with
instructions to submit to him the most difficult questions and cases. And
precisely as he had feared, as the years passed, he began to lose contact
with the people, especially with the children and the younger people. He
did not have daily contact with them, and by the end of the 40 years, the
younger people had grown into men, and his relationship with them was
not as strong as it had been with their fathers.
Moshe was accustomed to dealing with the generation of those who left
Egypt, the ones who were afraid to conquer the Land of Israel and preferred
to return to their slave labor in Egypt. “Let us appoint a chief and return to
Egypt,” they had said (Bamidbar 14,4) after the Spies returned with a negative
report about the Promised Land.
But in the ensuing 40 years, a new generation arose - a generation of the
daughters of Tzelofchad and people like them, who loved the Land and
wanted a share in it. is was the “next generation,” those who grew up
without direct contact with Moshe the Prophet and leader, but rather with
the “rulers of thousands and hundreds.” is explains why Moshe was caught
by surprise at Tzelofchad’s daughters’ strong stand for an inheritance in the
Land. He had not expected it, and did not know what to make of it. Were
they interested in monetary justice, or did they simply love the Holy Land?
is is why he could not answer them himself, and had to bring their case
And this is what Rashi meant when he linked this with Yitro’s suggestion.
For it was precisely because Moshe accepted Yitro’s advice 40 years earlier
270 | B orne Upon a Spirit | Vatisa’eni Ruach
that he ultimately became “detached” from the children who later grew up
and could not answer them. It was because he had agreed to accept only
the difficult cases that he could not respond or relate to these new grown-
ups. "e sin was punished in the form of its natural consequences, which
occurred only 40 years afterward.
When the special family of Tzelofchad stood before him, he could not at
first imagine their idealism and strong desire to inherit Eretz Yisrael in
fulfillment of G-d’s covenant with the Patriarchs. Hashem then revealed
the secret to Moshe: “e daughters of Tzelofchad speak sincerely” (Bamidbar
27,7) – their request is motivated by their desire to cling to G-d’s Land, and
not mere lust for property.
We Will Go First
Another example of the “generation gap” that was manifest during the 40
years in the desert is the story of the tribes of Gad and Reuven, recounted
in Parashat Mattot. With Israel preparing to enter the Promised Land of
Israel, the men of Gad and Reuven request to be given land on the eastern
bank of the Jordan River:
אִ < מָ צָ אנ; חֵ 5 ְ: 0 ֵינֶ י+ יֻ 6 ַ5 אֶ ת הָ אָ רֶ 3 הַ $ֹאת לַ 0 'בָ דֶ י+ לַ א' חֻ $ָ ה,
אַ ל 6 ַ0 'בִ רֵ נ; אֶ ת הַ B ַרְ A ֵ5.
If we find favor in your eyes,
let this land be given to your servants for a possession.
Don’t bring us across the Jordan River. (Bamidbar 32,5)
Moshe Rabbeinu reacts very sternly, accusing them of bringing G-d’s anger
upon Israel just as occurred after the Sin of the Spies:
וְ הִ O ֵה קַ מְ 6 > ֶ6 ַחַ ת א' בֹתֵ יכֶ < 6 ַרְ :;ת א' נָ E ִי< חַ M ָאִ י< לִ L ְIKת עIד
הַ אַ חֵ יכֶ < יָ בֹא; לַ G ִלְ חָ מָ ה וְ אַ 6 > ֶ6 ֵE ְב; פֹה? ...
0 ַל ח' ר5I אַ R ה׳ אֶ ל יִ P ְרָ אֵ ל.
Will your brothers go to war while you sit here?! ...
Behold, you have now risen as a society of sinful people,
to add to G-d’s wrathful anger against Israel. (verses 6, 14)
But then he hears a new type of response, something he was not quite
expecting to hear: Bnei Gad and Bnei Reuven show that they truly do love
A Ne w Generation | Pinchas | 271
וַ א5 נַ חְ נ3 נֵ חָ לֵ 2 חֻ /ִ י. לִ פְ נֵ י ,ְ נֵ י יִ )ְ רָ אֵ ל...
?א נָ /3ב אֶ ל ,ָ >ֵ ינ3 ַ; ד הִ תְ נַ חֵ ל ,ְ נֵ י יִ )ְ רָ אֵ ל אִ י/ נַ ח5 לָ ת7 .
We will arm ourselves and go as an advance guard before the
other Israelites... We will not return to our homes until all of
ey thus reassure Moshe that they will be the first to begin the fight and
the last to return from the war. “We will not begin our lives on the eastern
bank until all of Israel is settled as a nation in its Land,” they assure Moshe.
Here we see another example of the welcome change that occurred in the
hearts of Israel, before the amazed eyes of Moshe Rabbeinu.
e Right-Speaking Children of Yosef
A third example occurs with the tribe of the sons of Joseph, at the end of
the Book of Bamidbar. ey too argued about their inheritance, protesting
that the new law promulgated via Tzelofchad’s daughters was liable to cost
their tribes dearly. ey said that if the new sons-in-law of Tzelofchad
would be members of other tribes, their deceased tribesman’s land would
end up with other tribes.
Here again, Moshe was unable to answer on his own, and had to turn to
Hashem, Who told Moshe what to say:
וַ יְ צַ ו מ/ֶ ה אֶ ת ,ְ נֵ י יִ )ְ רָ אֵ ל ;ַ ל I ִי ה' לֵ אמֹר G ֵF מַ D ֵה בְ נֵ י יC7 ֵB Aֹבְ רִ י..
Israel has taken his possession. (verses 17,18)
Moshe commanded the Children of Israel
by Hashem’s word, saying,
“!e Tribe of Joseph is speaking correctly/sincerely.” (36,5)
Yes, the sons of Joseph are also speaking with perfect sincerity, with love for
the Land and not material lust. G-d confirmed their words: the daughters
of a man who has no sons must in fact marry within their tribe if they wish
to receive their father’s inheritance. is is a new generation, one that feels
true love for the Land, and for whom the Land is its goal and dream – and
its approach receives Divine approval.
e Children of Israel then Sang
e tremendous change that overcame Israel during the years in the
wilderness is expressed in the songs they sang.
272 | B orne Upon a Spirit | Vatisa’eni Ruach
To compose and sing a song of praise, two things are required: deep
knowledge, and inspiration stemming from joy and uplifted spirit. When
Israel stood at the shores of the Red Sea, which they had just miraculously
crossed and whose waves now covered the remnants of Pharaoh’s great
army, they deeply wanted to thank G-d with all their hearts. But they were
left speechless. People who had spent their whole lives downtrodden and
enslaved – what tools could they possibly have with which to express their
!is is why Moshe had to teach them what to sing, word for word. !e
Sages tell us that Moshe sang each line, and Bnei Yisrael sang after him:
en did Moshe sing, and the Children of Israel ... (Sh’mot 15,1)
But 40 years later, a new generation had arisen that knew how to sing its
own songs. Learning Torah every day, developing the Holy Tongue, aspiring
to reach the Land, they knew very well how to express the depths of what
they felt. Moshe did not have to teach them. And thus we see in Parashat
Chukat that they sang on their own:
אָ ז יָ 0 ִיר מֹ0 ֶה -בְ נֵ י יִ )ְ רָ אֵ ל ...
אָ ז יָ 0 ִיר יִ )ְ רָ אֵ ל אֶ ת הַ >ִ ירָ ה הַ :אֹת, 76 לִ י בְ אֵ ר 56 נ- לָ 4.
en did the Children of Israel sing this song:
Spring up, O well, sing to it. (Bamidbar 21,17)
!e rising of the waters of the well and the jumping up of the wellsprings
– these symbolize the emergence of wondrous inner abilities of a new
generation, expressed in its ability to compose its own song.
Speak to the Rock
Appreciation of this remarkable phenomenon is found in the Medrash. It
teaches that a generation that has grown up in freedom cannot be treated
us the necessary difference in approach, as manifest in the two times Moshe
had to extract water from a rock: !e first was shortly after the Exodus,
when he was told to hit the rock, and the second time occurred nearly 40
years later at Mei Merivah, when he was told to speak to it:
Hashem said to Moshe: “When a little boy misbehaves, his teacher
must discipline him by hitting him, and the boy will then study
properly. But when he grows up, hitting him no longer works, and
A Ne w Generation | Pinchas | 273
he must be spoken to with respect. Similarly with Israel: When the
rock was small - that is, when the Children of Israel were young - I
told you to hit the rock (Sh’mot 17,6). But now [in Mei Merivah], the
proper approach is to speak with the rock, and not hit it (Bamidbar
20,8). Teach it a passage, and it will produce water for you.” (Yalkut
Shimoni to Parashat Chukat)
!e rock symbolizes the Nation of Israel. !e generation that left Egypt
was like a little boy, who sometimes needs to be hit in order to keep him
on the right path. “Hitting the rock” is a symbol of the stringent leadership
required for a nation that had become used to slavery and could not make
correct decisions on its own.
But now, after 40 years, things have changed. !e nation has grown up, the
children have become thinking adults accustomed to independence, and
Moshe must relate to them differently than he did with their parents. !e
“rock” must be spoken to and convinced so that it will produce its water
(Bamidbar 20,8). Unfortunately, however, Moshe continued to “hit the rock”
even 40 years later; the Medrash teaches that he did not internalize the
major change undergone by the people, and related to the children as he
We can now understand why, right after the story of the daughters of
Tzelofchad, G-d tells Moshe:
28 לֵ ה אֶ ל הַ ר הָ 28 בָ רִ י7 הַ 6 ֶה 5רְ אֵ ה אֶ ת הָ אָ רֶ 3 א2 1 ֶר נָ תַ -ִ י לִ בְ נֵ י יִ )ְ רָ אֵ ל.
Climb up to this Avarim Mountain, and see the Land I have
given Israel. You will see it, and you, too, shall be gathered
Hashem is as if saying to Moshe:
“You are accustomed to the generation that left Egypt, and you are
apparently relating to the new generation as if it were the earlier one.
You hit the rock, instead of speaking with it, and you called Israel ‘rebels’
“What is needed is a new approach by which to lead Israel, one that is
suitable to their new spirit of love and desire for the Land of Israel. !e
leadership must now pass to over to the hands of “Yehoshua bin Nun, a
man who has spirit” (27,18). He was the first to fight against Amalek, and he
is more connected with the young generation.
וְ רָ אִ יתָ ה אֹתָ @ וְ נֶ א< =ַ פְ -ָ אֶ ל 8 ֶ; ַי: 9 ַ7 אָ -ָ ה ...
unto your people [i.e., you will die]... (Bamidbar 27,12-13)
274 | B orne Upon a Spirit | Vatisa’eni Ruach
“You see the daughters of Tzelofchad, Moshe! You see the sons of the
tribe of Joseph! And you see Bnei Gad and Bnei Reuven! ey are the new
wonderful generation, the generation of promise, the one that will inherit
and build up the Jewish People in the Land of Israel.”

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