Needed: More Daughters of Zelophehad in Israel Today
By Ariel Natan Pasko
In this week’s Torah reading, Parshat Pinchas, we find some uppity Jewish women. Some say, the first Jewish feminists. But what did they demand? That they be treated equally in inheriting a part of Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel), promised by HaShem (the God of Israel), to their ancestors. Their love for Eretz Yisrael burned in their hearts.
“The daughters of Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of Manasseh, the son of Joseph, came forward, and his daughters’ names were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah,” (Numbers 27:1).
On the words “of the families of Manasseh, the son of Joseph,” Rashi asks why is this necessary? Has it not already said earlier, “the son of Manasseh?” To inform you that Joseph cherished the Land, as it says, “and you shall bring up my bones…” (Exodus 13:19), and his daughters cherished the Land, as it says, “Give us a portion,” (later in verse 4), (Sifrei Pinchas 10).
“They stood before Moses, before Eleazar the Kohen, and before the leaders and the entire congregation at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, saying: ‘Our father died in the desert, but he was not in the assembly that banded together against HaShem, during Korah’s rebellion, he died for his own sin, and he had no sons.
Why should our father’s name be eliminated from his family [tribe], because he had no son? Give us a portion along with our father’s brothers,’” (Numbers 27:2-4).
“So Moses brought their claim before HaShem. HaShem spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Zelophehad’s daughters speak righteously. You shall certainly give them a portion of inheritance [in the Land], among the brothers of their father, and you shall transfer their father’s inheritance to them,’” (Numbers 27:5-7).
Eretz Yisrael was so dear to them, that they risked everything, demanding from Moshe, that they too acquire a portion in the Land.
The Talmud, Sotah 11b says,“Rav Avira taught: In the merit of the righteous women who were in that generation, [the children of] Israel were redeemed from Egypt.”
There are many reasons given, as to what constituted their righteousness. But certainly, their trust in HaShem’s promise, to the Forefathers and Foremothers, to redeem them from Egypt and bring them back to Eretz Yisrael to inherit the Land, is one of them.
According to the great 15th century kabbalist, Rabbi Yitzhak Luria, the Ari’zl, the souls of the final generation before the Messiah’s arrival, are reincarnations of the souls of the generation of the Exodus. (Shaar HaGilgulim, Hakdamah-Introduction 20).
And, we’ve seen these women’s righteous actions, filled with Gevurah (Holy Strength) in our days…
Last summer, a ceremony marking the fourth year since the passing of Rabbi Moshe Levinger, and the 40th anniversary of the entry and resettlement of Beit Hadassah, inside Hebron, was held.
Rabbanit Miriam Levinger, and Daniella Weiss, spoke. Daniella Weiss is a former leader of the resettlement movement, Gush Emunim, a former mayor of Kedumim in Samaria, and currently the Secretary-General of the Nachala Settlement Movement.
Gush Emunim spearheaded the resettlement of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, in the 1970s and 1980s, that has led to almost a million Jews living in the areas liberated in the 1967 Six Day War.
For those who don’t know, Rabbi Levinger (student of Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook) was the founding father of the Jewish resettlement of Hebron, along with his wife, Rabbanit Levinger, after the 1967 Six Day War, and a leader of Gush Emunim.
In the spring of 1968, Rabbi Levinger put an advertisement in an Israeli newspaper, for a Passover Seder in Hebron, at an Arab owned hotel that he had rented out. Refusing to leave after Passover, he and his group negotiated with the IDF and the government, first moving to the Military Headquarters building (the Memshal), and eventually getting the Israeli government to agree to develop an empty hilltop just outside Hebron, what became Kiryat Arba, where about 7,500 Jews live today.
Eleven years later, in the spring of 1979, his wife, Rabbanit Miriam, Sarah Nachshon [wife of famed artist Baruch Nachshon], along with several other women and children, entered the till then, abandoned Hadassah Hospital building. It had been unused since the infamous 1929 massacre on the Jewish community of Hebron, by Hebron’s Arabs. After which, the British authorities expelled the surviving Jews from Hebron “for their own good.”
After a protracted struggle with the Israeli government to get the women out, the government agreed to the development of Jewish resettlement within the city of Hebron itself. Which has led to nearly a thousand Jews living in Hebron today.
Then Deputy Foreign Minister, and now tipped as the next Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Tzippi Hotovely, speaking at the ceremony, praised Rabbanit Levinger, Sarah Nachshon, and the other righteous women, for setting an example to her generation of women, fighting for the Jewish people’s right to Eretz Yisrael today.
Hotovely said she hoped that this government of Israel (after the 1st elections in Sept. 2019) would apply Sovereignty to Judea and Samaria, and that all future governments of Israel would put to rest, the idea of dividing the land, and giving away part of it to others.
Hotovely earlier, in her inaugural speech in 2015, as the then new Deputy Foreign Minister, said that Israel had tried too hard to appease the world. “This land is ours. All of it is ours. We did not come here to apologize for that…We expect as a matter of principle, the international community recognize Israel’s right to build homes for Jews in their homeland, everywhere.”
Other righteous women of our generation include, Nadia Matar and Yehudit Katzover, founders of Women in Green. They have spearheaded Ribonut (The movement to apply Israeli sovereignty to Judea and Samaria), and put the issue of sovereignty onto the political agenda.
We need more Bnot Tzlaphchad (Daughters of Zelophehad), like these women. Jewish women seem to get it, even if the men don’t always. Maybe there should be a new organization started, called Bnot Tzlaphchad, a Jewish women’s organization, encouraging Jewish Moms to teach their children and husbands, the love of Eretz Yisrael, importance of Aliyah, re-settlement of the Land, and to push their husbands and grown children to take practical actions, as the Jewish women do.
With Parshat Shlach just behind us, and the three weeks and Tisha B’Av coming, now is a good time to do the Tikkun (fixing/healing) on the “Sin of the Spies.” “Vayotziu Dibat HaAretz,” they said Lashon HaRa, slander on Eretz Yisrael, (Numbers 13:32).
Just as it was in the merit of faithful Jewish women then, that Israel was redeemed, so too, it will be in the merit of the righteous women of our generation, and their unwavering faithfulness to Eretz Yisrael, and the coming Final Redemption, that the Jews will be fully redeemed once again.
Ariel Natan Pasko, an independent analyst and consultant, has a Master’s Degree specializing in International Relations, Political Economy & Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites and in newspapers. His latest articles can also be read on his archive: The Think Tank by Ariel Natan Pasko.
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