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by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler
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And the daughters of Tzelofchad the son of Chefer, the son of Gilad, the son of Machir, the son of Menashe, who belong to the tribe of Menashe the son of Yoseph, came close. These are the names of his daughters: Machlah, Noah, Choglah, Milkah and Tirtzah.Apoor Jew from the city of Kalisch agreed to bring smuggled merchandise from the German border to the city of Lodz. He took the merchandise, loaded it on a wagon, and set out on the road.
Once they were traveling on the road, the wagon driver realized that the merchandise was contraband, and saw that he had a chance to blackmail his passenger. He stopped the wagon and said to the Jew, "We are now going to the nearby police station. I know that your merchandise is contraband. Unless you give me one hundred rubles, I am going to take you to the police."
The Jew, seeing that the wagon driver was in earnest, pleaded for mercy saying, "This is not my merchandise. I am simply transporting it for someone else. How can I give you such a large sum? In my pocket there are no more than a few rubles. Where can I possibly obtain a hundred rubles to give you? Will my boss believe that I had to pay a hundred rubles from my own pocket? Besides that I will lose my job!"
"Everything that you are saying," replied the wagon driver, "is worthless. Neither am I the owner of this wagon; I receive a salary only for my work. But does anyone have mercy on me? If you do not have cash, I am willing to let you off and take a hundred rubles' worth of merchandise instead."
Seeing that he had no other choice the Jew agreed, and only after he had given the wagon-driver the merchandise did the wagon driver take him to his destination.
The Jew noted the details of the wagon and the driver, and when he reached Lodz, he went to the rabbi of Lodz, Rabbi Eliyahu Chaim Meisels, and told him of his woes. The rabbi requested that the Jew stay in town a few days, and promised to try to help him.
The rabbi then told his aide to go to the place where the wagon drivers congegrate, to find the wagon which fit the description he had been given, and to tell the driver that he should come to him at noon to take the rabbi for a trip immediately after lunch. When the driver arrived on time, the rabbi said to him, "I am busy now. Why don't you sit down and have lunch at my house, and soon I will be ready to travel." The driver agreed, and while he was eating, the rabbi's aide hid the horse and wagon.
The wagon driver ate until he was full. When he left the house he could not find his horse and wagon. He searched everywhere, but to no avail. "That meal that I ate cost me a bundle," the driver said to himself.
He went back into the rabbi's house and told him, "Rabbi, a great misfortune has just befallen me. The horse and wagon are not mine, and the owner is known to be very harsh. He will take revenge on me and report me to the police, claiming that I have sold his horse and wagon and kept the money for myself. Please help me out of this horrible situation!"
"Why are you so worried?" asked the rabbi. "Just take the hundred rubles that you stole from the Jew from Kalisch yesterday, and buy yourself a horse and wagon."
The driver turned white. The rabbi continued, "You crook! Did you have mercy upon a Jew when he pleaded with you? Did you have compassion when he cried and asked you to leave him alone? He told you that it was not his merchandise and that he was likely to lose his livelihood. His boss would also have suspected that he had stolen the merchandise. Why now should anyone have mercy on you? Is that what you deserve?"
Seeing that he was caught red-handed, the driver relented. "Rabbi," he said, "the merchandise that I took is still completely intact. I am willing to return it," said the driver.
"If so," replied the rabbi, "Go quickly and bring it here. Afterwards we will talk about your loss."
The driver hurried home, and immediately returned with the merchandise. The rabbi called in the Jew who was waiting in an adjacent room and asked him to inspect the merchandise to see if there was anything missing. The Jew did so, and discovered that everything had indeed been returned.
Since the rabbi was dealing with a thief, he had to use force to recover the stolen merchandise from him. But our children are not thieves, and therefore they should not be forced to do anything against their wills. Rather we must train them through gentle persuasion, and by setting a good example.
The daughters of Tzelofchad were righteous women [tzidkaniyos]. They married men who were fitting for them. We have learned that Rabbi Eliezer Ben Yaakov said, "Even the youngest among them did not marry earlier than at the age of forty."
What was so special about the fact that the daughters of Tzelofchad married men who were fitting for them, when most women do the same? Why did they make such a great sacrifice, waiting to marry until an older age in order to marry someone fitting for them? Since they needed a miracle to enable them to give birth at an older age, why did they wait until they were older to marry, when we know that a person is not allowed to depend on miracles?
What did they mean when they claimed that human beings are more merciful to men than they are to women, when the truth seems to be the opposite, since women are generally treated with more sensitivity than men are? In what way was their request influenced by the fact that G-d has mercy on everyone? How could all the daughters of Tzelofchad have been firstborns and what difference would this fact have made relative to the matter which they brought before Moshe?
Why do we deduce that someone is a tzaddik if the Torah relates his ancestry with praise? Why, if the Torah relates a person's ancestry in a derogatory manner, is it a sign that he is a wicked person who is the son of a wicked person? Why is it so rare that a person raised by a rasha not learn from his actions? Why is it so rare that someone raised by a tzaddik not learn from his actions and become a rasha?
The daughters of Tzelofchad were righteous women. They married men who were fitting for them.
Rashi explains that in reality the daughters of Tzelofchad would have been allowed to marry anyone they wished in spite of their inheritance problem, but nevertheless the Torah advised them to marry husbands who were fitting for them.
Rashi learns this from the contradiction between the beginning of the verse that says "whoever finds favor in their eyes they shall marry" and the end of the verse that says, "but only to the family of the tribe of their father, shall they be wives." The beginning tells us the law, and the end tells us the advice. They did exactly that and married their cousins, who were the men most suitable for them.
If they married their cousins, why did it take forty years to find them? The answer may be that for some unknown reason, their cousins did not offer them marriage until after the age of forty. In spite of the long wait, they had the needed patience since they would only marry the most suitable men for them.
Many woman marry men who are not on their level of spirituality, and yet they do so because of a man's good looks, charm or money. The Torah warned the daughters of Tzelofchad against making such a mistake. The right spouse is someone who fits you like a glove. This means that apart from being a kind and gentle person, the potential husband must also fit the woman's character as closely as possible. That is what our Sages meant when they said that the daughters of Tzelofchad "married only men who were fitting for them." It was not enough for them to find someone fitting, but he must also be "fitting for them," in other words, the best match possible.
Our Sages are telling us that a woman who withstands the temptation of accepting a match which is not perfect is considered a righteous woman. Righteousness means that a person does not act on impulse, but rather can control his desires and direct his actions. He uses his judgement to decide what is the right thing to do, and then he acts accordingly. He does not allow his emotions to control his decisions. This is what the daughters of Tzelofchad succeeded in accomplishing.
Marrying the right person has monumental consequences in one's life. It can make the difference between climbing the ladder of spirituality or the ladder of materialism. A man by his nature sets the goals for the family, and if he is very interested in making money, then it is difficult for the wife to alter the tone he has set for the household. For the daughters of Tzelofchad, this was something they could not sacrifice. They wanted the best possible husbands, who would be able to help them achieve their spiritual goals. If this meant waiting many years, then that was the price they were willing to pay, and they were not ready to compromise on this.
They looked at their many years of waiting as a trial. Each one said to herself, "I know that I am doing the right thing by waiting until I find my perfect match, someone who will help me realize my spiritual goals. If G-d has not yet sent me the right person, that must mean He is trying me to see whether I am willing to compromise on my spiritual ideals and marry someone who is looking for less. I am going to withstand that trial, since I know that is what G-d really wants from me."
...Since the daughters of Tzelofchad were righteous, a miracle was performed for them,...
Normally we say that a person is not allowed to rely on a miracle, since he may not be worthy of having one performed on his behalf. Furthermore, when a miracle is performed for someone, he loses some of his entitlement to his portion in the World to Come. Our Sages relate an incident about a rabbi who saw that by receiving a miracle of parnasah he reduced his standing in the World to Come.11 But one may depend on a miracle when a fundamental ideal is involved, as it is here in the case of the daughters of Tzelofchad. Who a person's spouse will be has such a profound impact on one's life, that he may depend on a miracle in this case.
On the other hand, there is a story told of a person who came to the Chofetz Chaim and told him that he was having great difficulty in marrying off his daughter, who was not so young anymore. The Chofetz Chaim told him that at her age one is not allowed to be overly particular, since it is now so much more difficult to find a suitable shidduch. From this story we can learn that most people are not on the same level as the daughters of Tzelofchad. They cannot wait for years for the perfect shidduch, but rather they must be satisfied with what is available.
However, someone on the same level as the daughters of Tzelofchad can say, "I know that I am not worthy of having a miracle performed for me. And yet, since my whole purpose in life is to do Your will and have a spouse to help me fulfill that goal, I am willing to rely on a miracle in order to achieve that purpose. And even if this results in the loss of some of my World to Come, I am willing to accept that, since I know that I am really doing Your will by waiting for the right spouse."
...Human beings are more merciful to men than they are to women, but G-d is not like that.
When our Sages say that human beings are more merciful to men than to women, they are referring to the fact that people tend to give men superior positions and possessions in life, since men are generally relied upon to be more visible and to support their families, more so than women. Men are generally the leaders in their communities and make the major decisions. Consequently, people tend to give them what they would require in order to fulfill their tasks.
But G-d does not act in that way. He judges every person individually, and accordingly gives him the necessary tools he needs to achieve his own tasks. G-d does not decide by gender, but rather by character. This is what the daughters of Tzelofchad knew, and therefore they were not afraid of any decision that G-d would make in their own quest for an inheritance.
Their request was influenced by the fact that G-d has mercy upon everyone equally. When they heard the laws of inheritance from Moshe, they saw that men were to receive a larger portion than women, and in some cases women would receive nothing at all. Since they knew that G-d has as much mercy upon women as He does upon men, they felt that something was missing in the laws that they had heard. Therefore they appealed to Moshe, asking whether he had asked G-d all the questions in this matter, or whether perhaps there was some room for further clarification in their case.
G-d's answer showed them to be right. He consented to their request, saying that in their case they did indeed deserve an inheritance. The Torah's laws were not intended to take away a woman's inheritance, but were rather giving it to those who would be taking over their fathers' tasks in life. Usually that is the position of the sons, but where there are no sons, then that task belongs to the daughters, and they rightfully receive the inheritance.
...Just as Tzelofchad was a firstborn, so were all his daughters considered firstborns.
All the daughters of Tzelofchad could have been firstborns if they had different mothers, since each could have been the firstborn of her own mother. Actually, according to the laws of inheritance there is no advantage given to the firstborn of a mother; in order to receive a double portion of the inheritance, one must be a firstborn of the father.12 The use of the term in the midrash is a reference to the fact that a firstborn represents importance. In the Torah, G-d praises Israel by calling them His firstborn, as it is written, "My son, My firstborn, is Israel."
Since all the daughters of Tzelofchad were considered firstborns, each of them had great importance. This could also be the reason they were able to challenge Moshe in the laws of inheritance, since a person of average stature probably would not have had the courage to do so.
Wherever the Torah is not specific about a person's actions, and... his parents' actions, and relates his ancestry with praise, this is a sign that this person is a tzaddik who is the son of a tzaddik.
...Every tzaddik who is raised by a rasha and does not emulate his actions, is extremely righteous. And every rasha who is raised by a tzaddik and does not learn from his actions is extremely wicked,...
We deduce that a person is a tzaddik if his ancestry is related with praise. An important part of a person's reputation depends upon his success in educating his children. Even if a person gains importance because of his own deeds, there will always be a blemish upon his reputation if he has children who have strayed from the right path. The parents are always blamed for their children's conduct, no matter how righteous they themselves may be, since they must have some flaw to cause their children to stray from their parents' path. Since the Torah praises the ancestry of the daughters of Tzelofchad, this shows us that they were indeed righteous.
If an individual had been a tzaddik, the Torah would not have insulted him by speaking badly about his ancestors. The Torah is full of praise for the tzaddik and would not have caused him the slightest harm or embarrassment. Therefore, if we do find derogatory reference to a person's ancestry, then we may deduce that the Torah did not bother to take the son's feelings into consideration, since he was not worthy of such consideration.
It is unusual for a person who has been raised by a rasha not to learn from his actions. A child tends to emulate his parents. If he sees in them a disrespect for Torah and those who learn Torah, it is almost certain that this will influence his own outlook.
We find an example of this in the Talmud,14 where Miriam the daughter of Bilgah insulted the Holy Alter by kicking it and calling it names. Her punishment was that her family's slaughtering place was locked and they had to use the facilities of other kohanim. Why did the whole family have to suffer from her behavior? The Talmud answers that whatever a child speaks in the street is what he hears at home.15 In other words, if a child goes astray, this indicates the kind of education he has received at home, since it is very difficult for a child to behave properly when the proper example is not set by his own parents. When a child does succeed in breaking away from the wrong education that he has received in his home, he deserves praise, for his actions are quite uncommon.
It is also unusual for a child to have been raised by a tzaddik and not to have learned from his actions. When a child sees that his parents love Torah and constantly praise those who learn it, he must be quite wicked not to want to follow in his parent's footsteps. Such a case is rare, since parents' actions usually have a positive effect upon their children.
As we have learned from the above midrash, the children of a tzaddik are almost always tzaddikim. The obvious reason is that a child tends to emulate his parents. Children develop habits, the same manner of speaking and other characteristics similar to those of their parents. A child sees his parents as the most talented people in the world. You may often hear one child say to the other, "My dad is the best dad in the world." This child means what he says.
Sometimes, however, we find that very religious parents have a child who does not want to be religious. How does such a thing happen, and how can it be prevented? One important principle is to avoid making Yiddishkeit disagreeable in the eyes of the child. When a child sees that he is forced to do something, no matter how pleasant it may be, he will eventually despise doing that thing.
A good example is davening. If you throw your child out of bed when it is time to daven, or stand over him like a policeman to be sure that he says every word, you are going to instill in him a distaste for davening.
This is especially common in the teenage years, when children have a tendency to rebel, and also to sleep late. In my opinion, even in the case where your child will miss the last chance to say keriyas shema on time, do not force him to get up. When he is sleeping he is really exempt, since he cannot do the mitzvah while sleeping. But your trying to force him to get up might cause him to stay in bed on purpose. Worse than that, it may give him the feeling that he is being forced to daven, and that will have a negative effect on his davening for a long time.
Instead of using force to get a child to daven, try using pleasant persuasion and being an example for him. Tell him how wonderful it is to open your heart and talk to Hashem, to tell Him all your problems, and to ask for His help. When you daven together with him, be careful to concentrate on your davening, and do not indulge in conversation or any other distractions. When he sees how careful you are to daven correctly, and how you truly enjoy your davening, he will be more likely to want to daven correctly.
When you come home after work, be careful to set aside time for learning Torah. If your child sees that you never open a sefer, it will be very hard to convince him that learning Torah is so important. If you can find time to learn together with him, that is the most effective educational tool. He will see how you enjoy learning, and you can give him the feeling that he knows how to learn, and thus can give him great encouragement.
Shabbos is a good time to learn Torah with your children. Even if you are very busy the whole week, on Shabbos you cannot work, and thus there is time to review with your children what they have learned in school or in the yeshivah. When the child knows that his father will test him every Shabbos, this causes him to learn better, since he does not wish to disappoint his father. You can even give him prizes if he learns well, but do not make the prizes the main focus of the learning.
You should always be in contact with your child's teachers. Unfortunately, some parents do not even come to the special evenings set aside for parents to meet the teachers. When a child sees that his parents do not care enough to ask his teacher how well he learns, he has no incentive to do well in class. The teacher also loses interest in the child, since he sees that even his parents do not care about him, so why should his teacher care?
I had an interesting experience that illustrates this point. Once a girl in my class acted very badly, until I had to ask her to leave the classroom. She was extremely humiliated by this incident and told her parents about it when she got home. The parents in turn called me to ask why she had been thrown out of the class. I explained to them what had happened, and told them that actually, the girl is very good, and she has great potential to achieve a lot. Of course the parents told the child over what I had said, and from then on she tried very hard to excel, and she finished the year as one of the top students in the class.
The positive results were caused by two things. First of all, I gave positive encouragement, and did not only criticize. Secondly, upon hearing that the parents care so much for their daughter that they had bothered to call me, I myself put more effort into helping her to succeed. There was only one phone call from the parents, but it made the difference for their child as to whether the year was a success or a failure.
When we serve as good examples for our children and do not force them, but rather persuade them gently, we can help encourage them to stay on the path which the Torah wants us to follow.
1. Bamidbar 27:1
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network