Shabbat Parashat Pinchas| 5766
When to Make a Claim on a Name
The daughters of Tzlofchad … the son of Yosef approached … saying: ‘Our father died in the desert, and he was not among the group that stood up against Hashem in the group of Korach … Why should our father’s name be lacking from his family, for he has no son. Give us a portion among the brothers of our father’” (Bamidbar 27: 1-4). Chazal have demonstrated many points of wisdom and righteousness in these illustrious women words and deeds. Let us suggest new ideas to appreciate the wisdom of their claims.
Rashi cites the idea that the daughters of Tzlofchad are traced back to Yosef, because they followed his love of Eretz Yisrael. It is a little difficult to see their love for the Land. Perhaps it was just a lust for money, which happened to be available in Eretz Yisrael. Let us go on to a question which many commentaries address. Why did the daughters mention that their father had not died with Korach’s group? Were no other sins notably regrettable?
We can suggest that one question answers the other, but first let us ask one more question. The daughters of Tzlofchad implied that their father had died a while previously. Why did the question of inheritance come up only as preparations for dividing the Land were discussed (ibid. 26: 52-56)? Didn’t most Jews leave Egypt and the Red Sea with significant riches, which could be inherited by their children?
Tzlofchad’s daughters may have been stressing to Moshe that they had not been interested in their father’s property until the property in question was a piece of holy real estate in Eretz Yisrael. The Torah spells out that not only were those who were in Korach’s inner circle swallowed up by the earth, but all of their property was, as well (ibid. 16: 32-33). Thus, the daughters may have been telling Moshe that despite the fact that their father had died under circumstances where he left riches behind, they raised the issue only when Eretz Yisrael was involved. This indeed is a sign of love for the Land.
Not only did Tzlofchad’s daughters want the Land specifically, but they did not even want it for their own sake, but to preserve their father’s name (pasuk 4). It sounds a bit melodramatic to say that the daughters would be saving their father’s name by being the ones to inherit his portion. Yet this is evident from a gemara. When one dies without leaving behind a child, the Torah instructs the deceased’s brother to take his wife so that someone can go on the “name” of the deceased (Devarim 25:6). The gemara (Yevamot 24a) derives from a pasuk that the name refers to inheriting his brother, not to what we call naming after someone. Our p’sukim indicate the same thing, as the ability to inherit Tzlofchad was that which preserved his “name.”
While people may look far and wide to find a way to make a name for themselves, our parasha teaches that building a family and securing land in Eretz Yisrael are among the most significant means of doing so.
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