-the five smartest girls in the heylige toirah
With the BNY in the home stretch and about to enter the promised-land, they seem always to be in trouble; they find it or it finds them. As we read the Parshios of Sefer Bamdibar we seem to be losing Yiddin each shabbis. At the end of last week’s parsha, we learned that 24,000 died because of their chazerish behavior with the Moabite girls but is that an accurate number? Maybe not.
There are several storylines in this parsha and let’s meet the main characters in the opening scene. Avada, if a person has a parsha named after him, we can assume that he’s our lead but there are others, and for the heylige veyber (wives, ex-wives and those thinking about being single one day) reading this heylige toirah, pay close attention as women play a more than prominent role this week. Then again so do the seductress Moabite women, if you chap. We’ll get to them in just a bit.
Our cast of characters includes Pinchas, Zimri, Kosbi and the rest of the BNY. Of course you didn’t forget the more than shrekliche (holy cow) story at the end of last week’s parsha where we learned that the yiddin had fallen prey to immorality and worse, with the daughters of Moiov. Basically the cunning Moabite meydlich (girls,) in a highly unusual move, mamish uncharacteristic for their profession, traded sexual favors for avoido zoro- meaning that they held back their goodies until the participating clients (yiddin) served their god. Nu, can we blame these poor hapless yiddin? How often does one chap a freebie when visiting with local talent? The price was right and Jewish: free! And as the parsha closed out, we learned that at least 24,000 received the death sentence for their lewd behavior.
Last week we also learned that Zimri and Kosbi, he being the head of Sheyvait Shimoin and she being a hot shiksa from Midyan, got together and in a show of defiance to Moishe Rabaynu, had relations in public and in full view. Though we heard their story last week, they weren’t mentioned by name ober (but) this week, after they got the point (from Pinchas), the toirah identifies each of the perpetrators. Actually the Medrish tells us that had Pinchas not stepped up with his spear and murdered them, the magayfo (plague) would have continued, chas v’sholom.
The medrish is, of course, telling us that way more than 24,000 participated in the free sex act, no surprise here, but that the RBSO was appeased after Pinchas took matters into his own hands. And had Zimri done the same, perhaps he would have lived longer. In fact, Rashi, commenting on the posuk where Moishe instructs the judges to kill the chazerrim, says azoy (like this): Slay you everyone his men — every one of the judges of Israel killed 2 (offenders); and the judges of Israel (numbered eighty-eight thousand, as it is stated in Sanhedrin (38). If we do the math it’s mashma (evident) that if 88,000 judges each hung and killed 2 sinners, that’s 176,000 Yiddin who died by hanging. Now add to that the 24,000 who died in the plague and we see that the sex and idol worship combo wasn’t at all free: it cost the lives of 1/3 of the BNY before Pinchas’s impalement of Zimri and Kosbi as they co-habited. Freebie or not, it’s quite easy to chap how the music came to an abrupt end; would you be in the mood if you witnessed your chaver’s and chaverette’s organs pierced by a spear? Ouch!
Interestingly enough, though not parsha related, mistama you recall that one of the reasons we count the sefira is because of a later generation where the 24,000 students of Rebbe Akiva died due to their lack of respect for one another. Maybe the issue wasn’t the lewdness or lack of respect? Could it be that the RBSO just doesn’t like the number 24,000?
And were the BNY happy with Pinchas’s actions? Was he considered a hero for stopping the orgy, I mean plague? Avada nisht! When Pinchas killed Zimri and Kosbi, a tremendous controversy erupted among the people as to whether his actions were correct or criminal. There were those who wanted Pinchas dead for killing another Jew, oy vey and his innocence was only resolved after the RBSO testified to the correctness of his actions. Mistama many of you oisvorfs who have loi olanu fallen prey to your desires for interracial dating and relationships are wondering…since when is having sex with a shiksa, a death sentence? Ober says the medrish: that Pinchas impaled the woman through the belly and aimed his spear between their male and female members, proving that he did not kill them in vain. Why would we think that he had killed them in vain? Rather, the heylige Toirah is alluding to the halocho (law) that a zealot has free reign (to kill) only while the act is in progress. In other words: you may chap some but don’t get chapped in the act!
The RBSO was zicher not happy with the Yiddin but seemingly understood that efsher they were a shtikel entrapped by these conniving women and instructs Moishe to wage war against Midyan in revenge for their seduction of the BNY to the worship of Baal Peoir. Though you’re now anxious mamish to hear the results, you’ll have to wait until next shabbis when the actual war takes place because the rest of the Parsha is silent on this war and is instead all about other subjects.
Our next big story involves a fellow named Tzelofchod and his five daughters but before we get to them, also in this week’s parsha the RBSO teases Moishe Rabaynu. Having informed him a few weeks back that due to his behavior with the rock, he wouldn’t get to enter the promised land, this week the RBSO tells Moishe to climb the mountain and take a good look all round the land that he wasn’t ever going to step foot into. Is this a reward for the greatest leader the BNY ever had? Do I know? Is being good always rewarded properly? Ver veyst! I only report the news and who am I or you to judge the RBSO? I’m just glad, and so should you be, that He doesn’t judge us regularly, if you know what I mean and sadly you do.
Back to Tzelofchod: Who’s he? Well, according to many, but of course not all, he’s the fellow that was caught playing with his wood on shabbis (a few weeks back in Parshas Shelach) and was sentenced to an immediate death leaving behind 5 bereaved daughters. And without any introduction the heylige toirah tells us that together these five (Machlah, Noah, Chaglah, Milkah and Tirtzah) approached Moishe to talk about their share of the land. Ok- I see you’re mamish confused; let’s put this into context. Here we are in year 40, the BNY, despite their outlandish behavior are getting ready (those few still alive) to enter the land and Moishe has the job of apportioning the land to the various Shevotim. Chap so far? Ok- veyter. Land is given out according to the father’s household. Bu there is no father and he has no sons- what to do? Nu- let’s learn a few pisukim – it won’t kill you (unless you play with your wood on Shabbis). Says the heylige toirah:
“…stood before Moishe, before Elazar the Koihain, and before the leaders and the entire assembly at the entrance of the Oihel Moi’ed (Tent of the Meeting), saying: ‘Our father died in the Wilderness, but he was not among the gathering that rebelled against Hashem in the assembly of Koirach, but he died of his own sin and he had no son. Why should the name of our father be omitted from among his family because he had no son? Give us a possession [in the Land of Israel] among our father’s brothers.’ And Moishe brought their claim before Hashem.” (Bamidbar 27:2-5)
So what exactly took place here? Tzelofchod passed away and left five daughters. We are taught as you will read below that they are all righteous, intelligent and learned. So much so that at the age of forty, none of them can find a spouse that is her intellectual equal. They’re too good and too picky for the many oisvorfs wandering the midbar.
When they hear Moishe say that Eretz Yisroel is to be divided according to the number of male children in the family, they realize that, under this ruling, their father’s name will be forgotten and they would be wiped out financially. What to do? They decide to claim their father’s inheritance so that his name will be perpetuated. The daughters of Tzelofchod claimed that since their father did not die in Koirach’s rebellion, but in the sanctification of the RBSO’s name, their “father’s house” should not suffer exclusion from the lottery.
In their initial appearance (Bamidbar 27) they approached Moishe (seemingly after a series of lower court appearances) and told him that their father had died in the desert, leaving behind the five daughters and no sons. They wanted to know whether they would inherit land, or if their father’s share – and his family name – would disappear into someone else’s portion. Moishe consulted with the RBSO, who said they were correct, and the share should go to them. Interestingly the daughters of Tzelofchod appear three times in Tanach, this being their first.
In their second appearance (Bamidbar 36) they again approached Moishe, this time to ask what would happen to their land when they married. Ordinarily, children inherit their parents’ land and possessions, and the children are identified with their father’s tribe. As such, the property of Menasheh (their tribe) could end up in another tribe. Moishe responded that their concern was valid, and to ensure their assets, they should marry members of their own tribe. Avada it’s understood that a daughter with land and or a few dollars has an easier time getting married so mistama we can understand their concern about losing the land and their husbands not being very happy.
In their third appearance (Yehoishua 17) they approached Yehoishua during the division of Israel, and took their appropriate shares among the sheyvait of Menasheh and more.
When Machlah, Noah, Chaglah, Milkah and Tirtzah are introduced, their whole family line is listed; they are identified as the “daughters of Tzelofchod, son of Chefer, son of Gilad, son of Machir, son of Menasheh, of the family of Menasheh, son of Yoiseph.” Why does the heylige Toirah go to such great lengths to tell us about their lineage?
Says the Medrash that this story shows the greatness of these women, and also the greatness in their ancestors, Tzelofchod/Chefer/Gilad/Machir/Menasheh. Adds the Sifri: that when children follow their parents’ ways, the lineage is listed. How this is reconciled with the medrish that tells us that Tzelofchod was executed for wood chopping, nu I don’t know. Who says that Medroshim have to be reconciled or even true?
Ober says the heylige gemoro in Buba Basra (119a) azoy: “The laws of inheritance would have been written in the Toirah through Moishe even if the daughters of Tzelofchod had not presented their petition, but since the daughters of Tzelofchod were meritorious they were written through their agency and …… The proper punishment of one who desecrates the heylige shabbis, such as the Mekoishesh (wood chopper), would have been written in the Toirah by Moishe even if such an incident had never occurred, but since the Mekoishesh was guilty, it was written through him – to teach you that benefit is awarded through the meritorious and harm through the guilty.”
The connection between the Tzelofchod’s daughters and the Mekoishesh has deeper roots. Said Rebbe Akiva that Tzelofchod and his daughters were both responsible for laws being written in the Toirah as a result of their activities. His daughters are described as having merited the honor, while he is chastised for having brought it about through his guilt.
Nevertheless the family connection is glaringly obvious. The statement made regarding Tzelofchod and his daughters – that something would have become Toirah law through Moishe but was written down instead as a response to the activities of another – is rare indeed. And as far as the Oisvorfer knows (not very and not much), there is no such statement about anyone else in the gantze (entire) heylige toirah. He and his five daughters share the distinction of being singled out from the rest of humanity as the only people in history who preempted Moishe from serving as the human agent to deliver Toirah law to the world. Mistama they were taka special girls.
The Midrash (Otzar Midrashim) lists the daughters of Tzelofchod among the 23 most righteous Jewish women in history. Another Medrash (Sifri Bamidbar) says that they were also scholarly; maybe they attended Mitzrayim University. And how do we know this? Says the medrish because they knew to speak up exactly when Moishe was learning the laws of inheritance. Nu, some medrish humor.
Yet another medrish figured out an interesting bit of biblical chronology. Tzelofchod was the wood-chopper who violated the Shabbos and this incident took place a few weeks back in parsha time but 38 years earlier in real time (in the Jews’ 2nd year in the midbar). He was put to death – which means that Machlah, Noah, Chaglah, Milkah and Tirtzah were all born by then. Still single in Year 40, they came to Moishe asking what would happen if they married out of their tribe. Based on this, the Gemora (Buba Basra 119b, as well as in Bamidbar Rabbah 21:11) says that they were so righteous that they waited 40 years to find husbands who would be their match.
Or, as was suggested above, though they may have been smart, they still couldn’t find husbands until they had some land as dowry, ver veyst? The Sifri Zuta says that Tzelofchod could not have been their father, as it cannot be that such great women couldn’t find a husband in 40 years. Nu, if he wasn’t, who was, and why did that person die in the Midbar? Then again as we have learned, he could have died in any one of a number of other scandals that the Yiddin partook in during their 40 year midbar journey.
Another Medrish, my personal favorite, tells us that these girls were mamish geniuses and proves it as follows. When confronted, Moishe punted on the question and took it to the top, to the RBSO. Said He: “Keyn Benois Tzelofchod Dovrois,” “The daughters of Tzelofchod speak accurately.” And what did they get? Their portion of the land? No! The daughters of Tzelofchod actually received four shares:
- Tzelofchod’s regular share, as someone who left Mitzrayim and made it all the way through the journey.
- Tzelofchod’s share in the inheritance from his father, Chefer.
- Tzelofchod’s second share in the inheritance from his father, Chefer. Why a double share? Seemingly Tzelofchod was a bechoir (first-born), and so he received pi shenayim (a double share).
- Tzelofchod had a brother who died in the desert; they received Tzelofchod’s share of that brother’s portion as well.
Moreover, they actually ended up with land on both sides of the Jordan (Bamidbar Rabbah 21:12). Half of the tribe of Menasheh took land on the east of the Jordan, and the other half waited until the Jews crossed the Jordan. The daughters took from both areas. Aggressive? Very!!
And as you can only imagine, shortly after that, they had no problem getting married, even past 40. An though there is a law that Moishe passed down that would have ordinarily caused them to lose their land (Moishe declared for that generation alone – (Taanis 30b) women who inherited land would have to marry within their tribe, or forfeit the land), seemingly these sly foxy daughters were excepted from this ruling. And we know this because the heylige Gemara (Buba Basra 120a) tells us that Moishe said the daughters of Tzelofchod could marry whoever was “good in their eyes!” The Gemara concludes that the daughters were exempt from this rule.
One has to wonder why Tzelofchod’s daughters’ names were never really popularized or why more males aren’t named Pinchas.
A gitten shabbis-