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Parashat Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1)

“Say, therefore, ‘I grant him My pact of friendship.” (Numbers 25:12)

Parashat Pinchas includes the fourth instance in the Torah of Moses turning to God for a legal ruling. The question is whether Tz’lafchad’s five daughters can inherit his portion in Canaan, since he has no sons. God says and changes the law yes (If the Earl of Grantham had known this, Downton Abbey would have lost half its plotline).

Rabbi Sh’lomo of Lutzk (?-1813; Chassidic master and publisher) notices something different in Moses’ behavior in this situation. When confronted with a request by people who missed Pesach, Moses responds, “Stand by and let me hear what instructions the Lord has for you.” (Num. 9:8) When confronted by Tz’lafchad’s daughters, though, ”Moses brought their case before the Lord.” (Num. 27:5) Lutzk claims their “case” means their great love for the land of Israel. Lutzk relies upon an interpretation by Rashi (an acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, the pre-eminent 11th century Jewish commentator) which says when the older generation of Israelite men agitate to return to Egypt, the Israelite women refuse, saying they have a portion in Canaan (Num. 26:64).

Lutzk uses the daughters’ desire for the land to make a radical claim: God denies Moses entry into Canaan not for hitting the rock, but for not loving the land enough! After all, if love of the land is enough for God to change the inheritance laws for the entire people, it should be enough to trump God’s decree for one person. But Moses, as the leader, is measured by a more stringent standard.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom


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