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Speak Up

Thursday, 5 July, 2018 - 2:31 pm

While the vast majority of the Mitzvot are initiated by G-d via His command through Moshe, there are several Mitzvot that were conveyed in response to human initiative. A notable example is in this week’s Parsha with respect to the Mitzvah of inheritance.

The land is being divided amongst the tribes and families. Five sisters approach Moshe with a claim. They are the daughters of Tzelafchad, Machla, Noa, Chagla, Milka and Tirtza. Their claim was that in the absence of male children, their father’s portion would be lost unless they were awarded his portion as rightful heirs. Moshe had a momentary memory lapse on the law of inheritance and he brought their claim to Hashem. In response, the Mitzvah containing the laws of inheritance was conveyed and they were awarded the portion of land.

Why is it that of all of the Mitzvot of the Torah, Moshe would forget this one? Our sages explain (cited by Rashi in our Parsha) that the five sisters merited to have the Mitzvah conveyed through their initiative because of the great love that they expressed for the land of Israel. They were from the tribe of Menashe son of Yosef. Their ancestor Yosef had already demonstrated a love for the land by ensuring that his coffin would be brought there for burial when the Jews left Egypt. Indeed his burial place in Shechem is known until this day. Apparently this trait was passed down in the family. The five sisters absorbed this attachment to Eretz Yisrael and it surfaced in our story. Contrast this with the disdain expressed for the land by the men of the previous generation during the saga of the spies. Parenthetically, this is one of the areas of Jewish life and history where the women outshone the men with their devotion and faith.

What would have happened had they not spoken up? Would we never have been given this set of laws? Highly unlikely. In fact the Midrash comments on the verse where G-d affirms the claim of Tzelafchad’s daughters, “This is the way this passage is inscribed before Me on high.” As if to say, the passage was ready to be conveyed as a Mitzvah and they merited to be the means by which is was done. Yet, unlike other times, the Mitzvah did in fact come through their initiative. This teaches us that Hashem values initiative. There are times that He would rather things develop from below. Certainly the initiative must be within the context of Hashem’s will as conveyed through Moshe. We can’t just make up our own rules and principles. If the plan had been nixed by Hashem through Moshe then they would know that they were mistaken. But it wasn’t nixed and they had been justified. The result is they merited to be associated with this Mitzvah for the rest of history.

If one has an idea, an observation, a suggestion or something similar, speak up. One never knows if their initiative can change the course of history. This is also the answer to those who criticize the Rebbe’s approach to incessantly praying for and demanding the Redemption through Moshiach. They say that it is up to Hashem anyway so why bother? Imagine if the daughters of Tzelafchad would have just resigned themselves and not spoken up? On the contrary, Hashem appreciates and values initiative. In this case we take the initiative to press the issue until we experience the Redemption!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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