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Weekly Thought - Pinchas

Friday, 2 July, 2010 - 3:04 am

In this week's parsha Bnos Tzlofchad questioned Moshe Rabbenu about their inheritance. Moshe Rabbenu then brought their question before Hashem. Rashi explains that Moshe Rabbenu had actually known the halacha, but had forgotten it. Therefore he needed to ask Hashem again to reveal the halacha.

At the end of Parshas Balak we find a similar instance of Moshe Rabbenu forgetting a halacha in the story of Zimri. Moshe Rabbenu and Bnei Yisroel were crying about the actions of Zimri with no clear decision of how to act. Pinchas witnessed what Zimri was doing and remembered the halacha. He told Moshe Rabbenu that he had already taught how to act in this case. Moshe Rabbenu responded, “He who reads the letter should fulfill its command”. From these stories we see that two halachos were forgotten by Moshe Rabbenu. The situation was resolved in one instance with Pinchas remembering, and in the other by receiving the answer again from Hashem.

Before the incident with Zimri, Moshe Rabbenu had taught the halacha, but the entire Bnei Yisroel including Moshe, forgot. In the instance of Bnos Tzlofchad, Moshe Rabbenu had learned the halacha, but had not taught it to Bnei Yisroel. This halacha became relevant at the end of the forty years in the desert when the land of Eretz Yisroel was to being divided amongst the shevotim. At that point Hashem had to repeat this law for Moshe Rabbenu. What is unique here and why did Moshe Rabbenu forget specifically in these episodes?

The Rebbe teaches us the following halacha. If a Talmid Chacham teaches a halacha that relates to a case that he himself is involved, we may not be able to use it in his case. If the court already knew the halacha before, then that law can be applied to this case. If however, no one had known the halacha in advance of the Talmid Chacham teaching it, we don't accept his teaching. The reason is because he has a personal interest in the matter. Moshe Rabbenu had personal involvement in both cases mentioned above. Zimri challenged Moshe Rabbenu directly by comparison. If the woman was prohibited for him to marry because she was a Midianite, then Moshe should also be forbidden to his wife, the daughter of Yisro, who is also a Midianite!

Since everyone had forgotten the halacha, if Moshe Rabbenu would teach that the zealous should take care of Zimri, the Sanhedrin would not accept his ruling. The reason is that he would be the sole source of the halacha for a case that he had personal involvement. Since everyone had forgotten the halacha, therefore it was necessary for Moshe Rabbenu to forget as well. Pinchas, on the other hand, was not personally involved. Therefore when he quoted the halacha it was accepted.

Bnos Tzlofchad told Moshe that their father died in the desert due to his own sins and was not among any of the groups that instigated a rebellion against Moshe Rabbenu like Korach and his followers. Bnos Tzlofchad needed to be very specific about this point because if he were a member of one of those groups, he would not be eligible to a portion in Eretz Yisroel. Once Moshe was told that Tzlofchad was not from a rebellious group, he had to remove himself from the case. This is because the words of Bnis Tzlofchad could be interpreted as flattery toward Moshe Rabbenu. No one except Moshe Rabbenu had known this halacha since it hadn’t been relevant to know. If Moshe Rabbenu would teach the halacha that they receive their father’s inheritance, the Sanhedrin would disqualify Moshe Rabbenu's ruling. He had to bring this question before Hashem to relearn this halacha as if it had never been taught. Only then would it be acceptable to the Sanhedrin. This is the only way it could be revealed.

We learn from these episodes we learn an additional meaning of bribery. Bribery doesn’t just involve money, but all kinds of influence, even a few words of flattery. Even the few words of Bnos Tzlofchad put Moshe Rabbenu in a position that he could not give a verdict and had to go back to Hashem to relearn the halacha.

Likutei Sichos, vol. 13.

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