An Individual's Ability to Stand Up and Be Counted
This week’s parsha begins with the incident of Pinchas and the zealous
actions that he took – killing Zimri as he was sinning with a woman from
Midyan. The Torah relates how the sins the Jews committed with the women
of Midyan caused a plague which resulted in 24,000 deaths.
Following the cessation of the plague, (which ended when Pinchas stepped
forward and defended the honor of the Jews), Hashem once again instructed
Moshe to take a census of the B’nei Yisroel. Rashi explains that
conducting a count of the Jews at this point of time is a logical thing to
do – similar to the actions of a shepherd whose flock of sheep is attacked
by predatory animals. As soon as he stabilizes his flock, he counts them
to ascertain the extent of the damage.
In a seemingly unrelated manner, the Torah then relates the interesting
halachic question raised by the daughters of Tzlafchad. They approached
Moshe and related that their father had died in the Midbar – leaving no
sons. They asked, "Why should the name of our father be omitted from among
his family [by not passing his inheritance to his family members]?
Moshe brought their request to Hashem, and then informed them that they
would, in fact, receive the portion allotted to their father. Rashi
comments that the daughters of Tzlafchad were rewarded for their love of
Eretz Yisrael – by having an entire portion of the Torah devoted to their
request and its resolution.
AN INTERESTING MIDRASH
The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah) notes that the daughters of Tzlafchad
followed in the footsteps of our greatest Avos (Forefathers) by standing
tall to defend Hashem’s Torah – and by defying the conventional wisdom of
their generation. As a result, they received the reward that was reserved
for all the people of their time period.
The Midrash compares these women to Noach who stood against the generation
of the flood and to Avraham who stood against the generation of the tower
of Bavel. So too, the daughters of Tzlafchad displayed their love for
Eretz Yisroel and approached Moshe at the time when the rest of Bnei
Yisroel were asking to “Appoint a leader and return to Egypt”.
Just as Noach and Avraham received the reward designated for the entire
generation, so too did the daughters of Tzlafchad obtain a
disproportionate remuneration for displaying their love for Eretz Yisroel.
Years ago, when I served as an eighth grade rebbi, I would often explain
the tefilah, “V’sein chelkaynu b’Torasecha (when we ask Hashem to give
us ‘our portion’ in His Torah)” with an incident that took place in my
My parents were invited to a wedding in an elaborate hall in New York
City. There was a fierce snowstorm that evening, and my parents, who lived
near an underground subway, were among the few who were able to make it to
the wedding. The next morning, they related to us how the father of the
bride was practically begging people to enjoy the delicious food – and eat
more than one portion – as more than two thirds of the guests could not
make it to the wedding!
MAKING THE MOST OF AN OPPORTUNITY
In this light, the prayer to “receive OUR portion in the Torah” takes new
meaning. Each person is afforded a portion in the Torah – and an
opportunity to share in the reward reserved for those who fulfill it.
When a generation misses an opportunity to follow in the Torah’s ways,
others can step in and take the portion of all the people who squander
The daughters of Tzlafchad stepped forward in a similar situation. Their
portion in Eretz Yisroel was about to be passed on to others in their
Shevet (Tribe). They stepped forward and respectfully presented their case
to Moshe – and received eternal reward for their actions.
AN INDIVIDUAL’S ABILITY TO STAND UP AND BE COUNTED
It is interesting to note how the counting of the Jews in Parshas Pinchas
is bracketed by two very different approaches to sanctifying Hashem’s
name. A listing of more than 600,000 people leads one to mistakenly
believe that there is only power in numbers.
The diverse actions of Pinchas and the ‘daughters’ teach us about the
power of the individual.
Pinchas defended the honor of Hashem in a very public and personally
dangerous fashion (see Rashi and others). The daughters of Tzlafchad
displayed their love for Eretz Yisroel in their understated – but very
powerful – words.
Both are forever recorded in our Torah as examples of the importance of
taking the proper course of action – regardless of the prevailing attitude
of the masses.
May we be granted the zechus – and courage – to stand and be counted along
Rabbi Horowitz is the founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam in Monsey, NY, as well as the founder and Program Director of Agudath Israel's Project Y.E.S. (Youth Enrichment Services), which helps at-risk teens and their parents. He is a popular lecturer on teaching and parenting topics in communities around the world, and is the author of several best-selling parenting tape and CD sets. For more information on Rabbi Horowitz's parenting tapes, visit http://www.rabbihorowitz.com/ or call 845-352-7100 X 133.