By Nuchie Zirkind
The first Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman, encouraged his followers to “live with the times,” which he explained means to glean practical life lessons from the weekly Torah portion.
This week’s parshah, Pinchas, discusses many fascinating events that happened to the Jews while in the desert, including the story about the five daughters of Tzelafchad. These five women had lost their father, and since the land of Israel was split among the men, they were not given a portion. The girls, Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah, came before Moshe and his court and requested that they be given a portion. Moshe brought their case to G-d, who replied, “Tzelafchad’s daughters speak justly. You shall certainly give them a portion of inheritance along with their father’s brothers, and you shall transfer their father’s inheritance to them” (Numbers 27:7). There is a very obvious question here: Why was this particular law “hidden” from Moshe until the daughters of Tzelafchad brought this request?
G-d deliberately created an imperfect world full of flawed humans who face challenges and struggles. The daughters of Tzelafchad recognized an obstacle in their legitimate desire and quest to obtain a part of Israel. They knew that it would take effort to obtain their portion, but understood that with intelligence and perseverance they could obtain their goal. Moshe acknowledged that their plea was honest and pure, and thus turned to G-d with their request. The women’s refusal to be daunted and their sincere and genuine plea was the impetus that G-d was waiting for, to reveal these “hidden” laws.
The lesson is that divine providence can often mean life seems to be working against us or the obstacles we face seem overwhelming, but G-d is waiting for us to stand up to the challenges and turn them into an opportunity to become a better, stronger person and to improve those around us. When we put in sincere effort, G-d helps.
This lesson is relevant now when the world is overwhelmed by COVID-19. Now
is the time to be like the daughters of Tzelafchad. We must persist in our efforts to follow safety precautions and use these current challenges as opportunities, whether spending quality time with our families, reaching out to those most severely affected, or just generally working on having a positive attitude. Then, when we look back on 2020 with 20/20 vision, we will hopefully recognize that we helped make this world a healthier, happier, and more harmonious place.
Nuchie Zirkind and Rabbi Shalom Zirkind, together with their six children, direct the Chabad of Hunt Valley. She is also the founder and director of the Hunt Valley Hebrew school.