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Volume 05 : Number 089

Thursday, July 20 2000

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2000 10:30:36 +0200
From: Menachem Burack <Mburack@emiltd.com>
Mitzvah Tanz

What is the source of the chassidishe mitzvah tanz? Some rebbes dance in a
square-like form and others  in a yud-hey-vov-hey - Does anyone have any
insights in these minhogim or know of marei mekoros.

A chassidishe rebbe told my friend's brother that "Ki L'hashem Hameluchah"
is roshei teyvos for Kallah. Can anyone elaborate?

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Date: Wed, 19 Jul 2000 18:40:44 EDT
From: Joelirich@aol.com
Re: Nusach of tefilla betzibbur

In a message dated 7/19/00 11:43:19 AM Eastern Daylight Time, 
wells@mail.biu.ac.il writes:
> Kaddish deYahid can, or perhap should be said in one's own nussach, however
> the nussach ashkenaz kaddish sayers should pause for a few seconds after ...

Wasn't kaddish dyachid originally only said by the shatz? I also don't think 
this works according to those who are concerned about lo titgoddidu.

Kol Tuv,
Joel Rich

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Date: Wed, 19 Jul 2000 19:28:46 EDT
From: DFinchPC@aol.com
Re: Dominant cultural values

In a message dated 7/19/00 2:42:10pm CST, micha@aishdas.org writes:
> one needn't prove that the mekor was off in order to dismiss
> a minhag. Many minhagim fell into disuse because of a later change in
> metzi'us. After Shabbatai Zvi, Yekkes make a point of not quoting the Zohar
> in tefillah, and some other kehillos dropped "baruch hu ubaruch sh'mo"
> because the S"Z-niks found it was gematria for S"Z.

True enough. But lots of other minhagim fell into disuse, or morphed
into something different, because of such things as migration, community
combination, community destruction (because of disease, marauding Xtians,
etc.), and the spread of ideas learned second-hand from distant rabbis. These
processes have little to do with questions of halachic accuracy or validity.
I don't think anyone can really create a minhag. A minhag just *is,* whatever
it's source.


In a message dated 7/19/00 3:07:36pm CST, micha@aishdas.org writes:
> Dinim diRabbanan and gezeiros are the product of Sanhedrin ONLY.
> They are the legislative power of the Sanhedrin -- dinim to preserve the
> spirit of the law (e.g. megillah reading to proclaim a miracle) and gezeiros
> to preserve the letter from accidental or habitual violation.

I take it you don't literally mean what you are saying. You referred us to 
your very useful internet article on FAQs regarding halachic authority. In 
this article, you point to a modern range-top blech as an example of a 
gezeira dirabbanan. But the Sanhedrin obviously didn't know from Kenmores and 
White-Westinghouses. The rules of the usage of modern blechs can't be 
products of the Sanhedrin only. Much the same could be said for contemporary 
interpretations of dinim dirabbanan, which are more regulatory and less 
prophylactic. If the gezeiros and dinim are developed, refined, construed, or 
interpreted by the post-Sanhedrin rabbinate, then whatever their origins they 
represent something other than raw Sanhedrin legislation.

David Finch 

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Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2000 02:15:03 +1000
From: SBA <sba@blaze.net.au>
Nidah 31a & Yeled Peleh

From: Eric Simon  Subject: Nidah 31a
> I must say, with all the learned discussions on this list, I am surprised
> that no one has even acknowleged this question.

Shtika K'hodoah... you lobbed a real hard one... I am sure many of us
have been searching for an answer - but remember - as my rebbe often said -
"fun a kashe shtarbt men nisht.."

The best I have - till now (I"m still seeking) - is what a local Talmid
Chochom told me that he saw in some sefer (he is trying to find it) that the
tevah and make-up of woman has definitely changed over the years and what
may have been then is not necessarily so today. (If he gets back to me with
the sefer's details - I will post it)

> "Why are the pains of a female birth greater than those of a male birth? ...

> RMB told me that this is meant metaphorically, and that if I look in
> Maharashah I can probably find out what this passage is supposed to mean.

> [Micha: I checked the Maharshah to no avail. He doesn't discuss any of the
> aggadita about birth and genetics on that amud. Perhaps the Maharal has
> something, ... ]

It doesn't - unfortunately.

BTW the Gemoro there also relates that a Malach teaches the baby Torah
whilst in the womb - but before birth gives him a slap (or similar) and he
forgets it..

(I have a few questions here: like what about girls? Are they also taught
Torah? And what about goyim - how do they spend those 9 months?)

This, to some, may also sound metaphoric. However, many of us old enough,
remember that there was actually a child in Jerusalem who when taken to
cheder at the age of 3 proceeded to quote "Kol Hatorah Kuloh". This went on
for a while - until the late Belzer Rebbe zt"l did something to him and he
forgot it all..

This boy - named by the press as the "Yeled Peleh" has a first cousin here in
Melbourne who knows the story well. Our previous Rav - who lived in Jerusalem
at that time - "farhered" the boy - Shas, Poskim Rishonim and Achronim!!!

This should tell us all something...


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Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2000 09:22:01 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Nidah 31a & Yeled Peleh

On Thu, Jul 20, 2000 at 02:15:03AM +1000, SBA wrote:
: The best I have - till now (I"m still seeking) - is ...             that the
: tevah and make-up of woman has definitely changed over the years and what
: may have been then is not necessarily so today.

IOW, nishtanah hateva (NhT). According to R' Avraham ben haRambam the word
"teva" in this context refers to science-as-known, not nature-as-it-is. He
therefore defines NhT as "scientific theory has changed", but reality didn't.
R' Avraham tries to prove that this was his father's position, in particular
he addresses medicine and mixing meat and fish. (The Rambam doesn't mention
meat and fish anywhere.)

It doesn't seem to be the shitah of those who use nishtaneh hateva to
explain the change in middos, nor that of my gradeschool rebbeim.


Micha Berger (973) 916-0287          MMG"H for 19-Jul-00: Revi'i, Pinchas
micha@aishdas.org                                         A"H 
http://www.aishdas.org                                    Yuma 39a
For a mitzvah is a lamp, and the Torah its light.         Yeshaiah 14

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Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2000 10:48:04 -0400
From: "Gershon Dubin" <gdubin@loebandtroper.com>
Nidah 31a

> [Micha: I checked the Maharshah to no avail. He doesn't discuss any of the
> aggadita about birth and genetics on that amud. Perhaps the Maharal has
> something, I lost that volume of my set -mi]

	I found nothing in the Maharal Chidushei Agados that addresses RES's


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Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2000 13:07:42 -0400
From: richard_wolpoe@ibi.com
Rashi question: Balak

Gershon Dubin wrote:
> Isn't the order wrong? The Midrash Tanchuma has it in the order talis,
> tefilin, shema, which appears more logical. Rabbenu Bachya quotes it in
> that order; why does Rashi apparently change the order?

From: Steve Katz <katzco@sprintmail.com>
> Is that maybe the reason some put on tefilin after birchas hashachar, just
> before boruch she'omar?

Most German siddurim have Tallis and Tefillin just before Baruch She'omar.

My guess is that often - espcially during the winter - people got up and said
brochos beore the zman of talis and tefillin. Therefroe it became a standard
practice to defer donning tallis and tefillin until before Baruch She'omar all
year round.

That there might be a Midrashic base for this minhag never occured to me, though
there is a potential connection.

Rich Wolpoe

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Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2000 10:21:03 -0400
From: Gil.Student@citicorp.com
Re: Fwd: The Holocaust: Divine Retribution?

R. Nathan Lopes Cardozo wrote:
>This unprecedented statement is, we believe, of major importance. Chazon Ish
>maintains that we cannot compare earlier and surely the biblical periods with
>our own days. In these earlier days, faith was strong and people did not doubt
>its foundations. Divine intervention was clear and ...
>This, however, is no longer the case. God's presence is no longer as exposed...
>Therefore, one can no longer call heretical views the result of deliberate
>viciousness. These views may, in fact, be the honest consequence of careful
>deliberation which is clouded by the confusion of not knowing how to see
>and understand the workings of history and matters such as personal tragedy.

This view of the Chazon Ish has bothered me for a long time.  First, there are
those (Ramchal in Da'as Tzefunos but I believe others as well) who explain the
madregah of malachim as having absolute knowledge of Hashem and THEREFORE being
unable to sin.  How can they sin if they know for sure that Hashem exists...?
NOT because they do not have a yetzer hara.  Only because they know Hashem.  If
so, then according to the Chazon Ish what is the difference between people in
biblical times and malachim?

Also, wasn't it possible to believe in shetei reshuyos?  What about kishuf and
nevi'ei sheker?

R. Ya'akov Kaminetsky in his sefer al haTorah (Shemos 7:22) write that we always
had zeh le'umas zeh so that we could not be forced to believe in Hashem.  During
biblical times when we saw revealed miracles we also saw magicians and witches
who could do similarly dazzling miracles.  Later, when the miracles were
revealed but we still had a bas kol, there were also seers and oracles.  Today,
when we have neither revealed miracles nor a bas kol there is no "black magic"
that works.  [Perhaps we still have tzadikim who can do a little so there are
still others who can "heal through magic".  Perhaps not.]  RYK seems to disagree
with the CI.

What about the times of the rishonim?  The rishonim talk about mumarim and
tinokos shenishbu (without the CI's chidush) yet they did not have revealed
miracles in their time?  Is the CI disagreeing with the rishonim.

See, for example, the Beis Yosef in Y"D 159 in the name of the Rambam and the
Nimukei Yosef.  See the Radbaz in his shu"t (2:12=1086).  See also the Minchas
Elazar (1:74).

My good friend, R. Daniel Feldman in his book The Right and the Good, quoted a
Chafetz Chaim in the last pages of Ahavas Chesed that agrees with the CI.  I
can't find that CC and haven't had a chance to ask RDF about it.  If anyone can
find it I'd be most appreciative.

Gil Student

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Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2000 12:39:49 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Fwd: The Holocaust: Divine Retribution?

Two brief comments:

1- Tochachos are clearly given to the tzibbur, not the yachid. For example,
   there are strong parallels between the first and second paragraphs of Sh'ma.
   It is the 2nd, the one written beloashon rabbim, that contains promises of
   berachah and kelalah. The berachos and kelalos of the tochachos and of
   Haazinu -- not to mention the lesson implied in seifer Shofetim -- seems
   to clearly map cheit to pur'oniyos, teshuvah to hatzlachah. Also note that
   the terms are national, staying in control of EY, winning wars etc...

   It would seem that while the formula for "tzaddik vera lo" is complex, the
   question may not hold for Kelal Yisrael as a whole.

2- Perhaps the cleanest resolution is RYBS's in Kol Dodi Dofeik. The Halachic
   Man wouldn't ask the question "Why?". He would ask, "So, what does thi
   empower me to do?" Any attempt to justify evil will tend to be
   intellectually dishonest and/or emotionally unfulfilling.


Micha Berger (973) 916-0287          MMG"H for 19-Jul-00: Revi'i, Pinchas
micha@aishdas.org                                         A"H
http://www.aishdas.org                                    Yuma 39a
For a mitzvah is a lamp, and the Torah its light.         Yeshaiah 14

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Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2000 13:34:24 EDT
From: Yzkd@aol.com
Re: pants

In a message dated 7/19/00 1:59:33 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
turkel@math.tau.ac.il writes:
> Does any one know the sources (preferably with references) for
>  the connection of pisuk raglaim and tsniut for women.

WRT Pissuk Raglayim it was discussed a while back here, based on the Rashi in
Pesachim 3a (although there it is more pronounced),

As to the general issue, the following is a quote from the "Halichos Bas
Yisrael" by Rav Yitzchak Yaacov Fuchs (Targum press) 7:5 footnote # 7.

" 7.  The issue of women wearing pants is discussed at lentgh in Minchath
Yitzchak, Vol. 2, No. 108. The author concludes that pants are forbidden for
two reasons: they are immodest because they outline the lower half of a
women's body; and, they are considered a male garment. According to Minchath
Yitzchak, pants may not be worn under ANY circumstances, and even pants
specifically manufactured for women are "men's clothing". See also Tzitz
Eliezer, Vol. 11, No. 62; Shevet Halevi, Yoreh De'ah, No. 63; Sdeh Chemed,
Vol. 4, Ma'arekheth Lamed 116, Yaskil Avdi, Vol. 5, Yoreh De'ah, No. 147.
A number of contemporary authorities take issue with Minchath Yitzchak,
maintaining that the injuction against weraing male garments does not apply
if the pants are specifically manufactured for women; the only reason for
prohibiting them is that they outline the lower half of the body.  According
to these authorities, who include HaGaon Rav Yosef Sholom Eliashiv and HaGaon
Rav Chaim Pinchus Sheinburg, womens pants may be worn where there is no issue
of modesty - for example, in a gym where there are no men present."

Kol Tuv
Yitzchok Zirkind

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Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2000 13:34:23 EDT
From: Yzkd@aol.com
Re: Nidah 31a

In a message dated 7/19/00 2:02:35 PM Eastern Daylight Time, erics@radix.net
> What does the following passage from Gemara mean?
>  "Why are the pains of a female birth greater than those of a male birth?
>  RMB told me that this is meant metaphorically

While WRT many Agodos Chazal one can discuss wether it is a metaphor, IMHO
this one is not a metaphor, as this is also brought in Tractate Soteh 11b
that this was a sign that Paroh gave to the JEwish midwives to know wether
the child is a boy or girl. hence there was nothing for me to add as IMHO
this is one of the things that we would apply Nishtanu Hativi'im (and not
only the science) as we find many issues of pregnancy and birth which are
diferent now then in the times of the Shaas, (Veses Kovua, getting period in
first 3 months of pregnency, getting period within 24 months after birth). On
a deeper level based on the Shmois Rabbo on the Posuk (Shmos 1:16, also
mentioned in the MaHaRShA on Soteh), and Rashi (Soteh), Pshat in the Gemara
LAN"D could be said as follows -

The Mishne in Ovos says that "Bal Korchoch Atoh Nolod" (A person is born
against his will) as the Neshama would rather stay close to G-d and not have
to be brought into the posibilty of being soiled, as such it refuses to enter
the world, this is what causes Bigashmius the pains of birth (before Cheit
Eitz Hadas the Neshama was not afraid of being soiled, hence it didn't cause
pain), the Gemara asks why is it though that there is more pain by the
female, the answer is that a women by nature is more spiritual and hence the
leaving from up high to come into this world is more dificult, "Derech
Tashmish" refers to both the actual Tashmish were the man faces down, as also
in his "Nivreisee *Lshameish* Es Konee" (his service to his creator) it is
also thru Avoda with Gashmius "Odom Zoreia Bishas Zriah" the Avoda of
Vkivshuha (Vhu Yimshal Boch), (many Mitzvohs that are related Davka to this
Avoda), in Kabalistic termanology an Avoda of Hamshacha, and this is because
he was created from the earth, the woman OTOH faces upward (Elecha
Tshukoseich) and likewise in her Avoda as "Eizer Kinegdoi" she elevates the
Chitim that man brings from the field and makes it into a bread (Bloshon
Hashas Klum Odom Meivee Chitim Koseis), in KAbalistic termanolgy an Avodah of
Ha'lo'oh, this is because she was created from man.

There is also deeper level based on Kabalah and Chassidus, Vein Kan Mkoimoi.

Kol Tuv
Yitzchok Zirkind

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Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2000 13:26:58 EDT
From: Zeliglaw@aol.com
Fwd: PARSHA 5760 -41: Parashat Pinchas

here's a very good article on the subject of bnos tzlafchad.
                                             Steven Brizel


This parasha series is being dedicated in memory of Michael Jotkowitz, z"l.

In memory of HaRav Yaakov Weinberg zt"l, upon his first yahrzeit. You are
sorely missed. - With much love, Rabbi Warren and Gail Kasztl and family

Were the Daughters of Tzelofchad Early Jewish Feminists
By Rav Elchanan Samet


The feminist movement in the Western world has undergone many changes during
the 20th century, and even today there are several different feminine voices.
Nonetheless, it would appear that there is a common idea that unites all the
different voices within the movement -- the demand for non-discrimination
against women in our society, neither in law nor in the actual social

Is it legitimate to view the struggle of the five daughters of Tzelofchad
to inherit their father as an example of an ancient feminine struggle for
equality? Can the feminist movement, in its search for roots within the
Biblical world, adopt the characters of these five women and view them as
harbingers of the feminine demand for equality and non-discrimination?

At first glance, the answer appears to be positive. In a world where the
laws of inheritance allow only men to inherit, these five women appear and
demand equal rights with men. Can there be a greater example for the demand
for women's equality? Moshe stands before their revolutionary demand without
an answer and brings their case before G-d. G-d, before whom all are equal,
men and women alike, answers. "The daughters of Tzelofchad speak right;
you shall give them a possession of inheritance among their father's
brothers..." (pasuk 7).

On the other hand, conservative opponents of feminism could argue, correctly,
that the daughters of Tzelofchad raise their demand only because their father
does not have male children. As they say explicitly, "Our father...and had
no sons...for he had no son...give us a portion" (pesukim 3-4).

In G-d's answer as well, he does not equate the rights of women to inherit
with that of men but only gives them a portion in a case like that of
Tzelofchad where there are no sons. G-d's answer to Moshe is: "If a man
shall die without a son, you shall pass his inheritance to his daughter"
(pasuk 8). So what sort of equality is this?


We have to first examine the argument of the daughters of Tzelofchad. At the
outset, in pasuk 3, they explain the background from which their demand arises.
"Our father died in the desert and he was not in the congregation which
gathered against G-d in the congregation of Korach, for he died in his sin,
and he had no sons."

The important part of this background information is the statement that "our
father died in his sin and he had no sons." Why do the daughters mention
the sin of their father that was the cause of his death?

The Talmud in Bava Batra 117b derives from this that "the complainers in
the congregation of Korach did not receive a portion in the land."

The question then is: What was the sin of Tzelofchad? If he did not die
in one of the plagues that resulted from various sins of the people, he
undoubtedly died in the general decree that followed the sin of the spies,
as all of those who left Egypt died.

The Gemara (Shabbat 96b) quotes a disagreement between Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi
Yehuda ben Beteira.

     What was the sin of Tzelofchad? Rabbi Akiva said Tzelofchad was the
     woodcutter. Rabbi Yehuda ben Beteira said that he was from the ma'apilim
     (those who attempted to go to Israel after the Sin of the Spies without

Why did they attempt to define a specific sin for Tzelofchad and not merely
allow him to die as all those of that generation died, as a result of
the sin of the spies? This is derived from the language of the daughters,
"for he died in HIS sin." The implication is that he died as a result of a
sin specific to himself. The Ramban, who declines to enumerate a specific
sin for Tzelofchad, explains that the sentence "for he died" is a shortened
version. The full version would read: "for he died in his sin in that he
did not enter the land of Israel."

No specific sin is being mentioned here but rather an explanation, that just
like all members of his generation, he, too, did not merit in his sins to
enter the land of Israel. This leads to the explanation of Rav Yehuda Halevi,
as quoted by his friend and contemporary, the Ibn Ezra.

     "For he died in his sin" - Rav Yehuda HaLevi said: "He died in his sin
     is directly connected to "and he had no sons." Just as one would say
     today "because of his sins some calamity happened to so and so."

This explanation has a number of advantages:

1) It is not respectful for his daughters to say that Tzelofchad died for
some specific sin if there is no need to enumerate what that was. It would
have been sufficient for them to simply indicate he did not belong to the
congregation of Korach. According to Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi, the verse does not
refer to any sin of Tzelofchad. It is merely the common expression whereby
any calamity is explained because of the sins of man.

2) One doesn't need to add words to the sentence as the Ramban does.

3) The trope of the verse, where a stop (etnachta) is found after the words
"The congregation of Korach," would appear to support this explanation.

The explanation of Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi returns us once again to the question
whether the daughters of Tzelofchad should be considered feminists. What
sort of feminists would say about their father that because of his sins he
had no sons but only daughters?!


After the daughters of Tzelofchad explain the background to their request,
they come to the main point. "Why should the name of our father be eliminated
from his family because he had no son. Give us a portion within the brothers
of our father" (pasuk 4).

The practical part of their demand: Give us a portion -- is understood. But
what is the meaning of the preceding explanation of their demand, with a
rhetorical question, "Why should the name of our father be eliminated from
within his family?" Unfortunately, these words are not explained by the
ancient commentators.

The name of a man is a central concept in the world of Tanakh. There are a
number of closely related explanations for this word but the most important one
for our purposes is: that which continues a man's existence within the human
context after his death. Man's physical existence ceases with his death but
his "shem," his name, his metaphorical essence, continues to exist within
our world in a certain sense. A man has an existential need to anchor his
existence within eternity. A man who leaves the world without any continuity,
without having left a mark on anything that stays after him, suffers a grievous
loss. His name and memory disappear and he is cut off all eternity. The
value of his short life is negated and he is like the dust blowing in the wind.

From earliest times, this necessity has concerned man. Ancient burial customs
are connected to this need. Many other things that men do in their lives are
of no other purpose than to perpetuate his name after his death. One might
claim that the majority of human creations, both material and spiritual,
derive from the need to deal with the feeling of temporality in man's life and
to ensure the continuation of his "name" after he passes away. Many cultures
have suggested solutions and the parasha of the Tower of Bavel does in fact
deal with one of those solutions.

How does the Israelite man in Tanakh perpetuate his name? There are two ways
that are necessarily combined -- by having children and by passing over
to his children his ancestral portion in land. Having children as a means
of continuity is understood to contemporary man as well. But having one's
family inhabit one's ancestral prequires some explanation.

The land that a Jew inherits in the biblical era, that he inherits from
his fathers and forefathers, was not understood by him merely as a material
possession nor as a means of production. Having one's children live in the
same portion while continuing to work the land was understood as a means of
continuing the living connection of fathers to children from generation to
generation. The familial ancestral portion serves as the glue between the
generations which pass over the land, as Kohelet said, "A generation comes
and a generation goes, but the land always remains."

We must remember that the land was nachalat Hashem, the portion of G-d that
was given to the forefathers in a covenant, and was conquered and divided at
the time when G-d fulfilled His covenant with this very generation. Israel as a
people is also called "G-d's portion." The Torah intends to create a permanent
and eternal connection between the man, Israel, and the land of Israel.

When a man settles his ancestral portion, builds on it his family, and
leaves it to his children after him, he succeeds in establishing "his name
forever." The individual passes away but leaves a permanent mark for himself
and his forefathers through his children and children's children, who will also
inherit the same land. There is no greater evil in the life of such a man than
if, when he passes away, he has no continuity and his name is lost. This evil
can occur to a man in one of two ways -- either by his being separated from
his ancestral portion in one way of another, or by his death without children.

Two mitzvot are intended to prevent this evil. The mitzva of yovel and the
laws dealing with the redemption of land sold for economic reasons are
designed to ensure that the land should return to the family of the man
whose portion it was. The mitzva of yibum is designed to provide children
for one who has no children, so that "his name not be erased from Israel."

There is indeed a connection between these two mitzvot. The halakha states
that a brother who performs yibum with the wife of his deceased brother,
also inherits the portion in the land. This connection lies at the root of
the story of Ruth and Boaz. When Boaz comes to redeem the field of Elimelekh
and his children who are his relatives, he states, (Ruth 4: 9-10): "You are
my witnesses that I have acquired all that belongs to Machlon and Chilyon
from the hands of Naomi. And also, Ruth, the Moabite, the wife of Machlon,
I have acquired as a wife in order to establish the name of the deceased
on his portion, so that the name of the deceased not be cut off from within
his brothers and from the gate of his locale. You are my witness today."

These words of Boaz are the equivalent of the words of the daughters of
Tzelofchad. Why should the name of Tzelofchad be eliminated ("gara") from
within his family? The basic meaning of the root G.R.A. in Tanakh means
"cut off," detached. Therefore, the daughters of Tzelofchad can say, "Why
should the name of our father be cut off from within his brothers?" Why is
the name cut off? Because his portion in the land is not being given to his
descendants but to other relatives who are not descendants.

Tragic circumstances, whereby a man's name is cut off, could indeed happen in
the ancient world. If a man died without children and for one reason or another
his wife did not perform yibum, then, indeed, his portion would be passed on
to distant relatives and direct continuation of his line would be ended. Is
this the case of Tzelofchad, who, in fact, has five daughters? That is exactly
the argument of Tzelofchad's daughters. Our father DID leave descendants --
five daughters -- and those daughters are capable of continuing the familial
continuity generation after generation by marrying and having children and
grandchildren, all of whom will be direct descendants of Tzelofchad. They
will not be without a portion. The husbands of the daughters of Tzelofchad
will be the owners of the land and they will pass it on to their children.

But this will not continue "the name" of Tzelofchad because his portion
in the land of G-d will not pass on to those direct descendants but will
be given to other relatives, since the laws of inheritance recognize only
male inheritors. Therefore, they ask: why should the name of our father be
eliminated, be cut off, from within his family? Does not Torah strive to
find a way to maintain the name of a man after his death, and should not
that necessity take precedence over the laws of inheritance?

The sages present this argument in a dramatic legal dialogue (Bava Batra 119b).

    Benot Tzelofchad were wise. They spoke to the hour. That is what Shmuel bar
    Rav Yitzchak said: This teaches us that Moshe was teaching the parasha of
    yibum, as it is written, Devarim 25:7, "the brothers sit together." They
    said to him: if we are considered as a son (for the purposes of yibum),
    give us the portion of the son. And if not, then our mothers should
    perform yibum. Immediately, "Moshe brought their case before God."


Now we can return to the question that we presented at the beginning of the
shiur. Should we see the struggle of the five daughters of Tzelofchad to
inherit their father as an example of an ancient feminine struggle? Now that
we have uncovered their motivation, as expressed by the question "Why should
the name of our father be eliminated?" -- it is clear that the answer is
negative. They were not motivated by their own rights, and their own welfare,
nor was equality of inheritance rights for women what lay at the root of
their demands, but something else entirely -- the concern for the name, the
memory, the continuity of their father, which will continue to exist through
his daughters and grandchildren who will live on the land which he received
from G-d. These five women are not trying to bring about a revolution, not
even a small one. Their arguments arise deeply from within the conceptual
world of the Tanakh concerning the establishment of a man's name over his
land, and they are arguing for the extension of this biblical principle and
its precedence over the general laws of inheritance. In fact, their whole
argument -- the basic right of a man to have his name continue after his death
-- is deeply rooted in a patriarchal social structure. Normally, a woman
leaves her father's house and his estate and joins her husband's house and
his estate. Her children will be called by the name of their father and will
inherit his portion and thereby establish his name for one generations. What
about the woman? In several instances, the halakha states: "A man's wife is
like his person" (ishto ke-gufo). This is what applies here. Her joining her
husband's family makes her an integral part of that family. Her continuity
is established by the settling of her children on her husband's land.

The daughters of Tzelofchad do not challenge this social structure. On the
contrary, they agree with it totally. The Talmud in Bava Batra 119b makes
it clear that had there been a son, they would not have argued for their own
inheritance, because the need of their father for the continuity of his name
would have been full satisfied.

Only in the extraordinary case of Tzelofchad who had no sons would his
daughters fulfill a dual role, by joining their husbands' families while
maintaining a concurrent independent status, since they also serve as
inheritors for their father. Their children will inherit a double portion,
continuing the name both of their maternal grandfather and of their paternal


In several of the stories of Tanakh which revolve around the need to establish
a "name," we find that women are at the front of the battle. We can mention
several examples. Tamar struggled to fulfill the yibum obligation in the
family of Yehuda. Ruth brought about the redemption of the lands of Machlon,
which will serve to maintain Machlon's name. The woman of Tekoah who comes to
complain before David is also an example, even though the story she presents
is, in fact, fictional. "I am a widow and my husband has died. Andhis servant
has two sons and they have fought in the field and no one could save them and
one struck the other and he died. One struck the other and killed him. And
all the family rose on me and said: give us he who struck his brother that
we may kill him, in return for the soul of his brother whom he killed. And
we will destroy his inheritor. And they will extinguish my ember which has
been left to me so that no name will remain for my husband nor a remnant on
the face of the earth" (Samuel II 13:5-7).

The daughters of Tzelofchad join this distinguished gallery, struggling for
the rights of the dead man in their family to have his name be established
over his portion. What is special in this story as opposed to all the previous
ones I mentioned, is that here we are dealing with single daughters fighting
for their fathers' name. However, there is no real difference between them
and Tamar and Ruth and the other women who struggled to establish the name
of men in their families.


Indeed, reading the story within the biblical context, eliminates any
feminine hint. On the contrary, it shows the daughters of Tzelofchad
completely accepting the laws of the patriarchal society in which they
live. They are not fighting for their rights as women but for the rights
of their father. Nonetheless, at the root of their argument, and in its
acceptance by G-d, there does lie a basic principle connected to the inherent
equality of the sexes. The daughters of Tzelofchad point out an injustice,
that because of the laws of inheritance whereby only males inherit, their
father's name will be eliminated from within his family. They argue that
the principle of preserving a man's name should take precedence over the
laws of inheritance. We can ask why? We have already pointed out that
tragic circumstances can arise whereby a man's name will be cut off, if
he dies without any children and his wife cannot perform yibum. Here too,
the law should be paramount, since the daughters cannot inherit, and as far
as the possibility of establishing this dead man's name over his portion
it is as though they do not exist. Tzelofchad will be one of those tragic
cases. Why do they maintain, and why does G-d agree with them, that the laws
of inheritance should be changed in this case. The answer is that on a basic
human level, a man who has children, whether male or female, understands his
circumstances (assuming he possesses common sense) as one who has in fact
achieved continuity. This continuity is a fact stronger than any social order
that gives precedence to one sex or the other. The contradiction between this
basic human fact and the laws of inheritance creates a situation difficult to
accept. A man raises a family, has children, feels that he has continued his
existence and his name for the next generation, but will lose that because of
a social arrangement which gives inheritance only to his sons. Those social
arrangements, therefore, retreat in this case, by G-d's command, before the
basic existential feeling of a man that, in terms of his continuity in this
world, there is no significance to the difference between sons and daughters.

On the human existential level, therefore, there is an equality of value
between men and women. Not always is this equality evident, because social
arrangements, and the force of daily life which is based on those social
arrangements, obscure it. The statement of the daughters of Tzelofchad
sharpened the contradiction between the arrangements of the patriarchal
society and that which is prior to any social arrangement -- the basic
human equality of man as created by G-d. In this case, the precedence of
that equality over social arrangement becomes clear.

In conclusion, we should examine the statement of the Sifri on our parasha as
explained by the Netziv in his commentary to the Sifri. First the words of the

     "The daughters of Tzelofchad came forward." When the daughters of
     Tzelofchad heard that the land was being divided among the males and
     not among the females, they all got together to confer. They said:
     The mercy of man is not like the mercy of God. The mercy of man feels
     more for males than for females. But He who has created the world is
     not that way. His mercy is for both males and females. His mercy is for
     all as is written: (Tehillim 145:9) "God is good to all and His mercy
     is for all His creations."

The Netziv comments:

     It would appear that their logic was faulty because they also knew that
     women do not inherit wherever there is a male descendant. This does not
     represent a lack of mercy because the daughters will marry men and share
     in their inheritance. But the real explanation is as follows: There is
     a great sorrow for a man to see his inheritance given to strangers and
     his name be eliminated from the inheritance. When there is a son, the
     daughters are not distressed that they get it all; quite the contrary,
     the son represents the main portion of the father's house. But if there
     is no son and strangers eat the portion, it is a very great sorrow
     and this is the mercy (to which they referred). This is the meaning of
     their statement, "Why should the name of our father be eliminated?" They
     mention his name and his memory, for the sorrow involved that his name
     should not be continued over his estate.


Copyright (c) 1999 Yeshivat Har Etzion
All Rights Reserved

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