Parshat Pinchas


Parshat Pinchas 5778 (Mussar)


A pattern in Bamidbar is rebellion against Moses’ authority. We finally see a grievance that is supported by God — and interestingly raised by a group of women who have minimum power in the social system.


Bamidbar 26:33 Now Zelophehad son of Hepher had no sons, only daughters. The names of Zelophehad’s daughters were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah.


Because women are so rarely named in the Torah, the specific naming of a woman, or here a group of women, is significant.


Bamidbar 27:1 The daughters of Zelophehad, of Manassite family – son of Hepher son of Gilead son of Machir son of Manasseh son of Joseph – came forward. The names of the daughters were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. They stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the chieftains, and the whole assembly, at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, and they said, “Our father died in the wilderness. He was not one of the faction, Korah’s faction, which banded together against the LORD, but died for his own sin; and he has left no sons. Let not our father’s name be lost to his clan just because he had no son! Give us a holding among our father’s kinsmen!” Moses brought their case before the LORD. And the LORD said to Moses, “The plea of Zelophehad’s daughters is just: you should give them a hereditary holding among their father’s kinsmen; transfer their father’s share to them.”


What is the me, place, and audience of the daughters’ presentation of their grievance? How are they defending their claim?


Bamidbar Midrash Rabbah 21:11 In what way is their wisdom evident? In that they spoke at the appropriate me.


Bava Batra 119b:10 That they are wise can be seen from the fact that they spoke in accordance with the moment, i.e., they presented their case at an auspicious me. [Because Moses was teaching halacha on this issue at that me.]


Rashi The daughters of Zelophehad speak right – … God said: Exactly so is this chapter written before me on High. (The Law has long since been fixed) (Sifrei Bamidbard 134:1). This tells us that their eye saw what Moses’ eye did not see. (They had a finer perception of what was just in the law of inheritance than Moses had.) (cf. Midrash Tanchuma, Pinchas 8).


Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe They are yet another example of the emphasis the Torah places on the importance of the individual. Their simple request, which demonstrated an intense spiritual desire, brought them honor in the eyes of their generation, since Hashem recorded their dialogue in the Torah. Every individual has the potential to leave his mark!


Rabbi Henach Leibowitz The Midrash is teaching us that the crowning virtue of a mensch is common sense — seichel. Without this, a person can possess intellectual brilliance, be a storehouse of knowledge and have wonderful intentions, yet fail in his endeavors. The daughters of Tzelafchad were aware that it made a crucial difference when they approached Moshe and they understood human nature sufficiently to know the appropriate me for their presentation. [Why did they men on Korach?] One of the most basic elements in chachmas hamussar – understanding human dynamics and psychology – is the complex interaction between man’s mind and his heart. Although we like to believe our thought processes are intellectually honest and free of any bias or emotional influence, this is unfortunately not the case. Every decision, every observation and every assessment of a situation that we make is colored by our feelings and distorted to some degree by our emotions. This emotional factor is known as a negiah – a bias or prejudice.


Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel (the Maharal), Ne vot Olam [a mussar text], Ne v Hakaas 2:5 every matter of the seichel is calm, and organized, and seichel does not leave the order like the other forces that are in man and act with their power, for it is not a matter of seichel… unless it is organized.


Rabbi Jack Stern, The Right Not to Remain Silent: Living Morally in a Complex World, “Sermon on Anger” Animal anger and human anger: But what marks the difference between the two? As in any other emotion or instinct, what marks the difference is that human trait called seichel—a Hebrew word whose meaning finds no exact English equivalent. Seichel is intelligence, but more than that. Seichel is insight, but other than that. Seichel is seichel, that extraordinary human power to assess a moment or a situation or a crisis, to set it within perspective and then to act on the basis of that assessment so that it will produce a maximum of benefit and a minimum of hurt. And if our seichel tells us that … indeed we have a grievance, then these words from Maimonides in the twelfth century: “When one person wrongs another, the aggrieved must not hate the offender while keeping silent. Rather he ought to inform the offender by saying, “Why did you do this to me? Why did you wrong in this instance …”


Rabbi Avi Fer g, Bridging the Gap …seichel is much more than our intellect; in essence, it is a medium through which we connect with Hashem. As such, it includes much more than the ability to think logically and in an organized fashion… It is our conscience; our realization that truth must win over falsehood, and that we should choose righteousness over corruption, morality over immorality, and right over wrong.