Friday, July 10, 2015

Pinchas 5775, Learning from all at all times

The five daughters of Tzelofchad were such great women that they discussed all matters among themselves in the framework of Torah law, agreed on everything, and lived their lives solely for the purpose of Torah. They went to Moshe Rabbeinu to discuss their family's inheritance in Eretz Yisroel and presented their argument in the fashion of the greatest Torah scholars (Bava Basra). They compared the laws of inheritance with the laws of yibum (Sifrei), and would not accept Moshe's initial arguments (the proper law having been concealed by G-d from Moshe) (Sanhedrin) not out of self-importance but out of devotion to true Torah and halacha.

Torah is passed from father to son,
Ultimately not only did G-d declare their learning and interpretation of halacha correct over that of Moshe himself, but they all found worthy husbands and bore children even though they were all over the age of 40 at the time of the disputation. Bamidbar Rabbah teaches that this was an extra instruction for Moshe himself not to be haughty or feel special that he had separated himself from his wife at G-d's command, for all five of these sisters had separated themselves from the likelihood of marrying and bearing children out of love of halacha without any direct instruction to do so.

No matter how well we feel we know something, no matter how special or learned or expert we may be considered by others around us, we must always be open to others' words and ideas. What would have happened had Moshe not accepted that he should put the sisters' question before G-d, if he had incorrectly decided halacha for the people this one time? If the sisters had not been willing to speak up, or the various judges not been willing to listen and defer to those above themselves?

and Torah is passed from mother to daughter. But Torah can
only be passed from one to another in an atmosphere of love
and respect, and the respect must go both ways; the child shows
kavod to the parent and the parent shows an appreciation of
the child's willingness to learn and consider what is taught.
Halacha and every other area of life can never be decided by those who are convinced they know everything, or who will not listen to others who approach in respect and serious interest in true knowledge. We ourselves must always be open to the words and ideas of others. To belittle others, to refuse to consider their words and thoughts, to hold ourselves above reproach in any area of learning or expertise is to commit an aveira with untold consequences. Let us all learn from everyone around us and always be willing to reconsider our beliefs and opinions within the framework of Torah.

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