• Gabbai

Matot Massei – Nationalism and Indifference

Last week we read about the daughters of Tzelofechad, who took a stand for themselves, ensuring that their father’s portion in the land was not forfeited. Their petition was accepted, and served as the vehicle to articulate the law of inheritance as it applies to women.

One cannot ignore the profound sense displayed by the daughters of Tzelofechad of being participants in a communal destiny. A careful reading of their request reveals that they were not merely opportunists seeking to profit from the system. They were not after greater wealth which would be provided to them by directing the plot of land intended for their father to them. It was the deep yearning of a portion in the land promised to their ancestors, a land which was to be their home and seat of their destiny. They could not function as contributors to their society in the capacity they desired without being afforded the means to do so – in this case by being landowners just as every other family started off in the Promised Land.

The great commentator of the turn of the 17th century, Rabbi Shlomo Efraim Luntcshitz in his work Kli Yakar, brings two great ideas explaining the drive of the daughters of Tzelofechad. In his comments he notes that the women of that generation were not included in the general sins committed by the nation. They had no part in the Golden Calf and they gave no credibility to the report of the spies which was accepted by all the menfolk, causing the long stay of 40 years in the wilderness. Indeed, this is implicated by the verse that amongst them ‘was no man who had come from Egypt except for Caleb and Joshua…’ There was no man, but women whose life spanned this entire era were plentiful. They were not subject to the decree of perishing in the wilderness over the course of the 40 years.

Kli Yakar goes on to assert that women in general have a greater natural love for the land than do men. Women are more faithful to a commitment than men tend to be, and they had made a commitment at Mt. Sinai which they meant to keep.

In Parshat Matot the narrative incl