Tuesday, July 15, 2014

shem olam etein lo - Tzelafchad's eternal reward

Rashi writes in Parshas Pinchas that the Bnos Tzelafchad had the special zechus of the parsha of hilchos nachalos being transmitted through them.  What did they do to deserve this special merit? 
Chasam Sofer (here) answers with a pasuk from the haftarah we read today at mincha.  Hashem promises to the “sarisim asher yishmeru es shabsosai” a “yad v’shem tov m’banim u’mibanos,” better than any children.  Chazal (according to one view) tell us that the mekoshesh who violated Shabbos was Tzelafchad.  He did so not for his own benefit, but to show the rest of Klal Yisrael that even though they were punished and would have to wander for 40 years, the mitzvos, especially the mitzvah of shabbos, still needed to be obeyed.  Tzelofchad’s actions were actually motivated by a desire to preserve the mitzvah of shabbos, not to desecrate it.  Therefor, thetorah of parshas nachalos was given through his daughters as an eternal remembrance for his good deeds.

I thought this Chasam Sofer fits perfectly with a gemara in Sanhedrin (93b) that darshens the same pasuk about Chanaya, Misha’el, and Azarya, and Daniel.  The gemara writes:

מאי שם עולם אתן לו אשר לא יכרת אמר ר' תנחום דרש בר קפרא בצפורי זה ספר דניאל שנקרא על שמו
The “shem olam” they were rewarded with is Sefer Daniel. 

You see from the gemara that having divrei torah transmitted in your name counts as an eternal reward and remembrance.  This is exactly what the Chasam Sofer is saying as well – the transmission of parshas nachalos in the name of the Bnos Tzelafchad is the best remembrance Tzelafchad could have.
Parenthetically, my wife observed that in the list of families, the Bnos Tzelafchad are listed as (25:33):
 וְשֵׁם בְּנוֹת צְלָפְחָד מַחְלָה וְנֹעָה חָגְלָה מִלְכָּה וְתִרְצָה

Yet, later, in the parsha of nachalos (27:1), they are listed as:

וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹת בְּנֹתָיו מַחְלָה נֹעָה וְחָגְלָה וּמִלְכָּה וְתִרְצָה

Notice the difference of where the "vuv"s that makes the conjunctions are placed.  It's a detail, but every kutzo shel yud has meaning.  I have no idea why there is such a difference.

Another question from my wife: given that the women did not sin in the cheit hameraglim or the cheir ha'eigel and were not included in the punishment gezeiros for these sins, wouldn't they have far outnumbered the men?  I would also add that a large number of females were captured in the war for Midyan as well.  Seems like there should have been a major shidduch crisis...


  1. I assume that you're joking about the shidduch crisis, since polygamy was the norm. And if you posit that while it was permissible is was not the norm, note that Rovo had multiple wives.

    There is another early character who is mentioned in Shulchan Oruch more that anyone else from Tanach or Gemora: Ben Drusa'i. Make of it what you will.

    1. I think my son said the same thing. On a practical level, though, it's hard to imagine because putting aside the huge discrepencey in numbers, there would be a generational gap as well.
      My take is that I don't like practical kashes on midrashim.

    2. Generational gap???? You are blinded by the "society" we live in. Consider that Chazal point out that in Yerushalayim, they married [relatively] older women to young boys, and vice versa, to maximize piryah v'rivyah. And that a Kohen Godol married a na'arah.

      As for numbers, it's like children. After a certain number, it becomes easier rather than harder. Note that while a king is limited to 18 wives but a commoner has no such limitations, although four is the maximum from the aspect of derech eretz.

    3. >>>After a certain number, it becomes easier rather than harder.

      My theory is that when you have one kid, things are great because parents have a 2 to 1 manpower advantage. With 2 kids, the sides are all even. Once you hit three, the kids are on the powerplay all the time and you are always playing defense. From 4 onward, forget about it.

  2. Regarding the changes in the vov: Not that it helps, but the Mesora calls it מוחמ"ו מנוו"ו מתוו"ו, the abbreviations of the listing of the names. The first two are in Pinchas, (מחלה ונעה חגלה מלכה ותרצה and מחלה נעה וחגלה ומלכה ותרצה, and the third in Masei in 36:1, where it says מחלה תרצה וחגלה ומלכה ונעה בנות צלפחד לבני דדיהן לנשים.) You know the Gemara in BB121a that the change in order reflects the fact that נעה was younger but wiser than most of her sisters, להלן מנאן הכתוב דרך גדולתן וכאן דרך חכמתן, מסייעא ליה לרבי אמי דא"ר אמי בישיבה הלך אחר חכמה במסיבה הלך אחר זקנה. Doesn't answer the vov question, though