By Rav Ilan Goldman
Excerpted from – PEROT HAILAN – A SHALIACH’S THOUGHTS ON THE PARASHA
The story of the daughters of Tzlofchad is highlighted as an episode of tremendous Ahavat Eretz Yisrael. Rashi tells us that their lineage goes back seven generations all the way to Yoseph in order to show that just as he loved Eretz Yisrael, for he requested to be buried in Israel, so too did the daughters of Tzlofchad. It is for this reason that they requested to inherit the land “Give unto us a possession”. According to Rashi, the Tanach only links people to other individuals so far back in their lineage when they possess similar characteristics. However, this does not seem to prove their love for the land. The Torah could be telling us that similar to Yoseph – they were righteous. Though the message of loving the land of Israel is an important one and dear to my heart, reading through the episode it is not evident that this is the actual motive. The people are to enter the land and divide it up between themselves according to how the land was divided by Moshe. These five daughters of Tzlofchad are right in requesting somewhere for themselves too. It doesn’t seem, at first, as something unique and worthy of praise. Furthermore, the one thing that they request which is of meaning and not merely practical is for their father’s name – “Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family”.
The Netziv finds evidence for this Ahavat Ha’aretz in their request: ”Give unto us a possession among the brethren of our father”. Requesting their possession to be among the brethren of their father seems superfluous. If what they are seeking is a share in Eretz Yisrael, what difference does it make where exactly it is? The Netziv explains that since they are from the tribe of Menashe, the inheritance of the land will be split into two. Half of the tribe will live on one side of the Jordan River and half of the tribe will live on the other side. The daughters of Tzlofchad requesting to live among their uncles means that they want a share together with the sons of Chefer whose inheritance is on the western side of the Jordan River. Hence they were requesting to live in the main part of the land which has a higher level of Kedusha. Their request, therefore, to live in mainland Israel shows us that their motive all along was not merely practical so that they will have somewhere to live, and was not even just seeking to commemorate their father’s name – but rather, they were motivated by their love of the Land of Israel in which they wanted to live.
The love of Eretz Yisrael was in their ‘genes’ passed down from Yoseph. The last to pass this down was Tzlofchad himself and indeed Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah are refereed to as Bnot Tzlofchad, the daughters of Tzlofchad. There is a discussion in the Gemara as to how Tzlofchad died. His daughters specify what he was not involved in but not what his sin was. According to one of the opinions, Tzlofchad was one of the people who desperately tried to make it to Israel after the sin of the Meraglim and they were punished to all wander in the desert for 40 years and die there.
The women of that generation are praised in the Midrash and proven to not have taken part in the two main sins – the golden calf and the spies. The men are described as those who “scorned the desirable land” – וַיִּמְאֲסוּ בְּאֶרֶץ חֶמְדָּה while the women, in complete contrast, desired it and sought the land.
Parashat Pinchas is always just before or just after the beginning of the Three Weeks. It bears within it a message which is essential to us and very relevant in this period. Let us not continue the sin of ‘scorning the desirable land’, let us realize that Hashem intended Eretz Yisrael for Am Yisrael and thus, there could not possibly be a better place for us. Finally, let us all love and yearn for Eretz Yisrael.