Commentary for Pinchas

13 Jul

This week’s parshah contains the story of Tzelophechad’s daughters, who come to Moses to ask if it is okay for women to inherit their father’s property after he dies. In discussing this passage, the Rabbis go out of there way to ascribe many Aggadic statements to Tzelophechad’s daughters in order to point out their righteousness and wisdom and to specifically point out that although they are asking if they will be able to acquire property, they are not doing so out of any sense of greed (Bava Batra 119b). More modern commentators have looked upon this focus as a way to differentiate Tzelophechad’s daughters from the rest of the Israelite multitude we have seen since the Exodus, almost all of whom have constantly been complaining about one thing or another and always bringing their petty squabbles and disputes to Moses to solve, rather than questions of any true moral, religious, or legal value.


In just two weeks we will read Deuteronomy 1:12, in which Moses says “How can I by myself bear the trouble of you and the burden and the bickering.” This verse is the only verse in the Torah not read with the standard cantillation. Instead it is read with the cantillation for the book of Lamentations to connect it to the destruction of the Holy Temple. As we head into this period of the Jewish calendar that is focused on both the consequences of mistakes past and on repentance, we should all take a lesson from Tzelophechad’s daughters and ensure that we are focusing our energy on the greater good of the community instead of on the petty squabbles that arise in our day to day lives.

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