Women were the pioneers in loving Israel and acts of kindness
In Parshat Pinchas, we are reminded of the fact that the older generation (aside from Yehoshua and Calev) died out in the wilderness due to the sin of the spies and only the younger generation can enter the Land of Israel.
Rashi (Bamidbar 26:64) states that there was no decree issued against the women (to die in the wilderness) since they cherished the land. The men said (Bamidbar 14:4) “let us appoint a leader and we will return to Egypt” while the women (the daughters of Tzelophchad) said (Bamidbar 27:4) “give us possession.”
The daughters of Tzelophchad are introduced in the following way (Bamidbar 27:4):
And they approached- the daughters of Tzelophchad, son of Chefer, son of Gilad, son of Machir, son of Menashe, of the families of Menashe the son of Yosef. The names of the daughters were: Machla, Noa, Chogla, Milka and Tirtza.
Rashi asks why Menashe is mentioned twice: “son of Menashe, of the families of Menashe the son of Yosef.”
Rashi answers that their lineage goes all of the way back to Yosef to teach us that Yosef cherished the Land of Israel as he requested to be buried there. Yosef’s great great great great granddaughters requested to inherit the land as they did not have any brothers to inherit their father’s portion of land.
Kli Yakar explains why the women of that generation had a much greater love and appreciation for the Land of Israel than the men:
The men hated the Land of Israel, since they were macho and far from righteousness. They were not interested in going from a place where there were no requirements (Egypt) to a place where they would be burdened with obligations (Israel). They said (Bamidbar 11:5) “We remember the fish which we ate in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, the watermelons, leeks, onions and garlic.”
Sifrei explains that in Egypt, they were free of the constraints of the mizvot. They didn’t have the burden of taking Trumot and Maasrot (donations and tithes of the produce designated for the Kohaim, Leviim, poor etc) from their vegetables since outside of Israel, one is not obligated in Mitzvot Hatluyot Ba’Aretz, the mitzvot that only apply in the Land of Israel. They were stingy and preferred to remain outside of the land rather than share with the Kohanim.
Kli Yakar continues: The women of that generation were righteous and loved tzedaka. They wanted to observe mitzvot like Hafrashat Chala which is special mitzvah for women as well as a mitzvah of the Land of Israel. They were excited about separating Trumot and Ma’asrot. We are taught in the Talmud, Sotah 11b that it was in the merit of the righteous women of that generation that our forefathers were redeemed from Egypt. The women wanted to leave the place where they were exempt from the mitzvot in order to move to a place where they would be obligated in more mitzvot.
Kli Yakar concludes that the daughters of Tzelaphchad took after Yosef. They were careful with their relationships and they loved the Land of Israel. Yosef kept his distance from Potiphar’s wife and the daughters of Tzelaphchad made sure to marry men who were fitting for them. The daughters of Tzelphchad wanted to enter the land as they loved taking part in giving Tzedaka, while Yosef loved righteousness and made sure that his father’s entire household had food during the famine.
For more than one hundred years, we have seen the love of many women for the Land of Israel, women, including both of my grandmothers, who went out of their way to raise funds to help build the State of Israel as we know it today. One pioneer of this movement was Henrietta Szold who founded Hadassah in 1912.
May we continue to see the State of Israel grow and may both women and men come on aliya and have the opportunity to take on as many mitzvot as possible.