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Shabbat Parashat Pinchas| 5764

Who Was Tzlufchad?

Harav Yosef Carmel

 Many people are known as their father’s son or daughter. There may be no more classic case of a man who was his daughters’ father than Tzlufchad, whose daughters showed their love for Eretz Yisrael when asking to receive their father’s portion in the land. But who was he? All we are told is that he had no sons and died in the desert because of his own sin, not that of Korach (Bamidbar 27:3). 
 There is a disagreement among the Tanaim (Shabbat 96b) if it is even permitted to reveal what his sin was. R. Akiva learns, based on the convergence of similar words, that he was the person who was caught violating Shabbat (Bamidbar 15). R. Yehuda ben Beteira reacted sharply, telling R. Akiva that under all circumstances, R. Akiva had acted improperly in advancing his theory. If he was the Shabbat violator, then why should R. Akiva reveal that which the Torah decided to keep hidden? If he was not as R. Akiva claimed, then why should R. Akiva cast aspersions on an honorable man? Several commentators (Ibn Ezra, Ramban, R. Yehuda Halevi) explain, with different nuances, that Tzlufchad did not sin any known, specific sin, but in general was not found Divinely worthy to enter Eretz Yisrael.
 Rashi ignores the aforementioned opinions and brings the opinion (apparently, R. Shimon) that Tzlufchad was one of the ma’apilim (those who attempted to enter Eretz Yisrael prematurely). The Sifrei Zuta (15) objects to those opinions that would date Tzlufchad’s death in the beginning of the 40-year period in the desert. After all, that would mean that the youngest of his daughters would be 40. Yet, we are told that not one of these very worthy, eligible women was married at the time they received permission to inherit their father (see Bamidbar 30). (See our d’var Torah from Parashat Shelach, where we raised the possibility that the story of the ma’apilim was indeed at the end of the 40 years).
 We will end off, uncharacteristically, by paraphrasing the Zohar’s opinion on the matter. The Zohar picks up on the fact that Tzlufchad’s daughters did not go directly to Moshe alone, but presented the matter to a forum of people. It posits that Tzlufchad was a leader within the tribe of Yosef, who did not receive an appointment by Moshe and came out against Moshe. The daughters feared that Moshe would hold the matter against them, unaware that, as the Torah said, Moshe was the most humble person on the face of the earth. Moshe, to avoid any questions about a possible conflict of interests, removed himself from the legal proceedings and presented the matter to Hashem to decide.
 From the Zohar, we merited seeing not only another possible identification of Tzlufchad, but we also learned another lesson in the proper behavior of a leader. One not only shouldn’t take revenge against “political opponents,” but shouldn’t even take offense when someone assumes that he is likely to do so.
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This week's Hemdat Yamim is dedicated
 to the memory of Mina Presseron the occasion of her first yahrzeit.
Her life exemplified growth through learning.

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