Monday, July 14, 2008


Acquired Rights

by Rabbi Gustavo Surazski
Parashat Pinchas mentions five women, daughters of a man called Tzlofchad, of the tribe of Efraim. The man had died, and since he had no sons, the women asked Moses to allot them a property in the Promised Land.

The women knew that according to Jewish Law, the inheritance belongs only to sons – but what would happen to their father's estate? Should the law regard them as "second-class" persons?

Moses was undecided as to how to respond. But after consulting with G-d, he received an answer to the dilemma: These five women would inherit their father's estate and would have a property in Eretz Israel.

The Midrash (Bemidbar Rabbah 21, 10) describes this episode in a very interesting way: "Oto Ha-Dor Hayu Ha-Nashim Godrot Ma She-Ha-Anashim Portzim" (In that generation, the women amended what the men had ruined.) The men danced around the Golden Calf; and the women rushed to the side. The men defamed the Promised Land together with the spies; and the women maintained a respectful silence. The men wanted to choose a leader who would take them back to Egypt; and the women approached Moses and implored him to allocate them land in Eretz Israel!

Very few wanted that Land… they were the exception.

I have often thought about the similarity between the story of the daughters of Tzlofchad and our history as a nation.

For centuries nobody wanted our Land…except for us. Even those other nations that today call our land the "Holy Land", haven't dedicated a single poem, or part of their dreams, to it.

Whereas all of them saw only the desolation of the Land and rejected it, we always knew that the Land was desolate only because it was waiting for us. While others with their laziness and inertia merely accepted the contaminated marshes, we knew that one day we would be able to dry those marshes and Israel would again become a Land of milk and honey.

We were the ones who dreamed of Eretz Israel when all the others saw it as the back yard of the world. We dreamed about Israel for centuries, not because of her wealth, but in spite of her poverty. It is not only G-d's promise which gives us legitimacy as the inhabitants of this Land. We earned that legitimacy when we wished for the Land at a time when everybody despised it; when we cried for it while everybody else profaned it.

Just as it happened with the daughters of Tzlofchad.