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Greatness

Friday, 6 July, 2018 - 8:38 am

 In this week’s parasha,Hashem agrees to accept the demand of the daughters of Tzelofchad, who had insisted that they receive their rights in inheriting property in the Land of Israel – as it says, “The daughters of Tzelofchad speak properly; you shall surely give them a possession of inheritance”. A moment later, Moshe Rabbeinu, too, had the courage to stand his ground and asked that his sons inherit him. As Rashi says, “The time has come for me to demand my needs, that my sons will inherit my greatness.”

As is known, Hashem did not accept this request and instructed him to appoint Yehoshua as his heir, but the request was actually rather reasonable. A person has devoted his entire life to some cause – isn’t it understandable that he should ask that his sons inherit his status?

We have all seen how Moshe Rabbeinu suffered with Bnei Yisrael. Every two weeks or so, everyone someone was shaming him for some reason or other. They spoke and incited against him, complained endlessly, and once almost stoned him. Moreover, he himself once said to Hashem at a particularly difficult moment, “Did I conceive this entire people or did I give birth to it, that you say to me ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a suckling?” On another occasion he said, “How can I bear by myself your contentiousness, your burdens and your quarrels?” after all this, if he loves his own sons, why should he request that they carry on with this exhausting work that he himself calls “slavery”?

This question arises in me every time I see Chabad shluchim, who after years of self-sacrifice and hard work, search for a similar mission for their married children. Moreover, many children of shluchim themselves search for the opportunity to engage in that same kind of self-sacrifice, even though no one knows better than them the difficulties and the challenges of their parents.

My daughter Mossi gave me the answer to this question before last Purim. She is learning in a Chabad school in Israel, and asked to come home for Purim. It seemed a bit unreasonable and farfetched to fly home for a weekend, when two weeks later she would be coming anyway for Pesach vacation, even if the flight is rather cheap. Furthermore, in Israel she would be able to rest among members of the extended family, whereas at home she would be working around the clock. She insisted, so I said, “You know what, Mossi? Explain to me why it is important for you to be with us for Purim, and convince me of this importance.”

There was silence on the line, and then she said. “I’m not used to experiencing the holidays in a regular community. It’s beautiful and pure and great to celebrate with family, but I miss the belonging to that great thing – I miss the meaningfulness of the shlichut. Purim for me is the work and the unending running around in the attempt to bring the holiday to every Jew – that’s why I want to come.”

I thought that that, possibly, is the reason that Moshe Rabbeinu asked that his sons inherit his position. He knew how hard it could be, but he also knew how much greatness there is in his work, and he wanted to give that to his sons. Perhaps that is why Rashi uses the expression, “That my sons will inherit my greatness”?

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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