Friday, July 18, 2008

In Loving Memory of our soldiers...

Parshat Pinhas 5768

I am giving this d'var torah tonight, at a tish at camp ramah in Nyack, and I wished to share it with my family and friends. Feel free to share it as well. These words are dedicated to the Regev and Golwasser familes - Hamakom Yinachem ethem b'toch sh'ar avlei Tzion Virushalayim. May God comfort them among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalrm.

Pinhas is one of the longer parshiot in the Torah, and the majority of its verses are occupied with a census of the new generation of B'nei Yisrael, following the death of the generation of the wilderness who were destined to die out after the negative report of the ten spies; as well as a detailed listing of the daily sacrifices, as well as those for Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh and other holy days. While at first these two topics may seem relatively disconnected, the strong thread that runs between them is that of concern for the national life of the people as they prepare to enter Eretz Yisrael. While the census will prepare them to conqer the land physically, the sacrificial listings also prapere the peple to worship God as they enter the land which he promised them.
When understood in this light, the placement of the story of the daughters of Tzelophchad in between these two lengthy lists seems natural, as it too is dedicated to a future in the land of Israel, and displays a deep love for this land. Tzelophchad ben Hefer died 'for his own sin,' and many rabbis attribute this to the man at the end of Prashat shelach Lecha who is tragically stoned to death for collecting wood on shabbat. This is as opposed to the multitudes who has just died in a plague after committing sexual immoralities at Shittim. Tzelophchad left no sons and 5 daughters, who were worried that by not recieving an inheritance in the land of Israel, their fathers' name would be erased from history and the land. These daughters approach Moshe with their situation, and after consulting with God, he answers the daughters that they were righteous in their quest and would receive a portion in the land of Israel.
The tragic return of captured soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev in caskets from Lebanon this week immeadiately reminded me of the story of the daughters of Tzelophchad, as Ehud and Eldad showed their love for the land of Israel in their dedicated service in the IDF reserves, defending the land of Israel just as our ancestors counted in this parshah were prepaing to do. Rashi comments on the beginning of the story Tzelophchad, which gives a long lineage, "Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of Manasseh the son of Joseph." He asks why the torah goes out of its way to mention that Menashe was the son of Yosef. He answers that this comes to remind us of Joseph's love for the land of Israel when he requested that his remains not be left in Egypt, but be brought up to the the land when B'nei Yisrael left Egypt, just as his descendants, the daughters of Tzelophchad showed their love of the land in their request to have an inheritance within it.
This has been a difficult week for the Jewish people as we were forced to accept that Ehud and Eldad have been taken from us and their families. We should be grateful that they now have the same merit given to Yosef in ancient times, to be returned to their land and ours, Medinat Yisrael, for their final resting place. Now it is up to us to give them the inheritance recieved by the daughters of Tzelophchad. We must ensure that their memory is kept alive for a blessing, and continue to work on behalf of Israel as a continuation of the work they were engaged in when they were abducted two years ago.
A final lesson from the Parsha is that when the census is done, the people are numbered by families, not as individuals. In both good times and bad, we should keep in mind, Acheinu kol beit yisrael - the whole house of Israel are brothers and sisters. May Gilad Shalit be speedily returned to his and our family as well. Amen.