From the heart of Jerusalem: Rabbi Binny Freedman

Our brothers, our sons


The heat was unbearable, but no one was thinking about the heat that day; there were 150,000 people who had gathered to pay their last respects.

Bus after bus unloading thousands of people who came from every part of the country — secular Jews with earrings in jeans shorts and cut-off T shirts, and ultra-Orthodox Jews in long black coats and side curls; Jews with large knitted kippot alongside those with baseball hats and soccer shirts. It was the middle of the Mondea’l, the world soccer tournament in Brazil, but no one was thinking about soccer that day and the teens who had come by the tens of thousands were not laughing.

Naftali’s mother was speaking and a man started crying.

“Did you know any of them?” asked a teen of someone in front of him.

“No, did you? “

“No. None of us did; but he was my brother; our brother; they were all our brothers.”

These three teenagers had captured our hearts. They were our sons and our brothers, and their families recaptured something many had thought was being lost: a love of the land, and of life, and of all the principles we hold dear.

They embodied the right of every Jew anywhere to live and breathe this land we love, the land of Israel. And yet, they embodied as well the terrible price we have sometimes had to pay for that love.

This week’s portion of Pinchas contains a fascinating story of a few young women whose love for the land of Israel seemed to know no bounds, despite never having been there. And there is a fascinating detail to this story that is most often missed, and yet holds a powerful message worth noting.

The five daughters of Tzlafchad (Machla, Noah, Chaglah, Milkah and Tirtzah) come forward before the entire leadership of the Jewish people: Moshe, Elazar the high priest (Aaron had passed away already), the princes and the entire congregation (Numbers 27:2), and explain that their father has died with no sons. Given that his inheritors are all daughters, they want to be given a portion of the land, that their father’s name not be lost in the land of Israel.

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