06 Jul MATOS-MASEI-THE EXCEPTIONAL CASE OF BENOS TZLAFCHAD
At the very end of Chumash Bamidbar the Torah relates that the leaders of shevet Menashe came to Moshe Rabbeinu with the following problem: because Tzlafchad had no sons his estate would be inherited by his daughters. The shevet of a child is determined by the shevet of his or her father, so if Tzlafchad’s daughters would marry someone from another shevet, their husbands’ shevatim will take possession of Tzlafchad’s portion of Menashe’s land when Tzlafchad’s daughters’ children inherit their mothers’ property, and thus shevet Menashe would lose part of its share in Eretz Yisroel.
In response to this problem Hakadosh Baruch Hu tells Moshe Rabbeinu that as a hora’as sha’ah any single girl who inherits land in Eretz Yisroel must marry a boy from her own shevet. This halacha only applied through the fourteenth year after Yehoshua bin Nun crossed the Yarden River. The navi tells us that it took seven years to conquer all of Eretz Yisroel, and the gemara records an oral tradition that it took an additional seven years to divide all the territory among the shevatim, families, and individuals. At the time the division of Eretz Yisroel was completed, the territory of each shevet was owned exclusively by members of that shevet. Once the division was completed, this hora’as sha’ah no longer applied.
The gemara (Bava Basra 120a) records a tradition that this hora’as sha’ah applied to all girls who inherited their fathers except for the daughters of Tzlafchad, who were allowed to marry anyone they wanted. Despite their exemption, the Chumash says that benos Tzlafchad listened to Moshe Rabbeinu and married boys from their own shevet. The gemara explains that this was a recommendation of Moshe Rabbeinu and not a din. We always recommend that one marry someone with a similar background as themselves for practical reasons, since two people with similar backgrounds have a better chance of blending together well and being blessed with shalom bayis.
The Ohr Hachaim asks: what motivated the chachomim to say that this hora’as sha’ah did not apply to benos Tzlafchad themselves? The simple reading of the parsha seems to say differently. The problem was raised by the leaders of shevet Menashe because of benos Tzlafchad, so what should lead us to believe that this special hora’as sha’ah should apply to all others but not them?
The answer can perhaps be found in the comment Rashi quotes at the beginning of parshas Matos from the Sifrei. All other prophets, just like Moshe Rabbeinu, will introduce their nevuah with the expression, “koh amar Hashem – this is the gist of what Hashem said”, but only Moshe Rabbeinu is able to introduce his nevuah with the expression, “zeh hadavar asher diber Hashem – this is precisely what Hashem has said.” Moshe Rabbeinu was the only navi who received direct dictation from Hashem word for word and letter for letter. All the other nevi’im were only shown a divine vision and interpreted it using their own vocabulary; even if two nevi’im would be show the same exact vision each would interpret the vision using his own vocabulary. The Talmud therefore tells us that it never happened that two nevi’im were given the exact same prophecy in the exact same words. Sometimes Moshe Rabbeinu was given direct dictation and sometimes was shown a vision and instructed to interpret it using his own language.
Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berdichov (in Kedushas Levi) explains under what circumstances Moshe Rabbeinu received direct dictation and when, like other nevi’im did he have to interpret a vision he was shown: whenever Moshe was told something that was only a hora’as sha’ah he was functioning in the same capacity as other nevi’im and thus would have to interpret a vision. But whenever Moshe was told a din ledoros it was not a transmission of nevuah but rather of Torah, and Torah had to be given via direct dictation.
It has been accepted for thousands of years that the law prohibiting a girl who inherited land from marrying a boy from a different shevet was a hora’as sha’ah, so why does Moshe Rabbeinu introduce that halacha with the phrase “zeh hadavar asher tzivah Hashem”? “Zeh hadavar” implies direct dictation and “tzivah” indicates a mitzvah, which is a technical term used only to describe a din which is part of Torah and applies for all generations! Perhaps this is what led the gemara to understand the passuk to indicate that only the din ledoros applied to benos Tzlafchad and thus they were able to marry anyone they chose, i.e. the hora’as sha’ah did not apply to them.