Steven Zvi Gleiberman

Confrontational challenges vs. respectful advocacy


In last week’s Parsha we spoke about the confrontation between Zimri and Moshe (Numbers 25:6), how Moshe didn’t respond to the confrontational accusations of Zimri and the two lessons we learned from it;

  1. When something is a lost cause, we should not waste our limited energy fighting it.
  2. One does not need to respond to every accusation thrown their way, as silence, when used correctly, is often the best choice of action. However, we see in this week’s Parsha, that the daughters of Tzelophchad confront Moshe, advocating why shouldn’t they receive inheritance rights just because they are women. They confront Moshe not only in front of Elazar Hacohen and the heads of the Jewish people, but in front of the entire nation. Yet the outcome of this confrontation is completely different; Moshe not only internalizes and accepts what the daughters of Tzelophchad are saying, but goes to God to advocate for them. God responds by saying; “The daughters speak justly. You shall certainly give them a portion of inheritance along with their father’s brothers, and you shall transfer their father’s inheritance to them”. Why is there a completely 180 0 difference in responses between Moshe/Zimri and Moshe/the daughters of Tzelophchad?

It is because these two situations have completely different dynamics, which play into the aforementioned responses: while Zimri challenges Moshe confrontationally, the daughters of Tzelophchad approach Moshe in a respectful and reasoned manner. Moshe’s silence in response to Zimri’s challenge can be understood as a strategic choice to not engage in futile argumentation, while his response to the daughters of Tzelophchad shows the importance of addressing legitimate concerns with fairness and compassion.

Zimri’s confrontation with Moshe inquiring about Moshe’s own marriage to a supposedly non-Jewish woman, reflects a hostile and aggressive tone. Zimri and his companions question Moshe’s authority to forbid or permit such marriages, potentially intending to undermine Moshe’s leadership and reputation. In this confrontational situation, engaging in a response might not have achieved a constructive outcome. Additionally, Zimri’s tone and intent suggest that any answer Moshe provided would likely be met with skepticism or rejection.

Engaging in a futile argument with someone who is confrontational and unwilling to listen might not have yielded any positive outcome and by remaining silent, Moshe avoids unnecessary conflict. It demonstrates his wisdom in not wasting energy on a lost cause and not stooping to the level of mud-throwing. Silence can be a powerful response, allowing the truth to unfold naturally without the distortions that can arise from heated debates.

On the other hand, the daughters of Tzelophchad approach Moshe respectfully and present their case in a measured and reasonable manner. They raise a concern regarding the inheritance rights for women. Their request is based on a genuine need for justice and fairness in society. In such a situation, engaging in dialogue is appropriate and beneficial.

Based on this dialogue, when the daughters of Tzelophchad raise their concern about female inheritance rights, Moshe listens attentively and consults with God to address their request and in response to their legitimate claim, God establishes a new law to ensure that daughters could inherit when there is no male heir. The confrontation between Zimri and Moshe and the case of the daughters of Tzelophchad highlight the difference between confrontational challenges and respectful advocacy. Moshe’s silence in response to Zimri’s confrontation can be understood as a strategic choice to avoid futile argumentation, while his response to the daughters of Tzelophchud demonstrates the importance of addressing valid concerns with fairness and compassion.

As the “light upon the nations” people, we often need to advocate for the correct things, and other times need to look the other way and let things play out on its own without intervention. May we have the futuristic vision to choose our battles wisely, to use the power of silence appropriately, and to use the power of speech correctly to lead to positive changes, enabling a better and more inclusive society.

Shabbat Shalom!

About the Author
StevenZvi grew up in Brooklyn and in his professional life worked in the healthcare industry in New York City. Wishing to create additional meaning and purpose in his life, he moved to Jerusalem in November 2020, where he lives with his wife, works in the Medical Technology space and volunteers for Hatzalah. He uses his writing capabilities as a healthy outlet not to receive money, recognition or fame. It’s his hope that his articles will have some positive impact on the Jewish nation and humanity worldwide. He may not live forever, but his contributions to society might.
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