"A nd the daughters of Tzelafchad drew near…” (Bamidbar 27:1)

The Midrash in Yalkut Shimoni tells us that a person who’s a tzaddik in a generation of wicked people merits the reward of the whole generation. We find this concept by Noach and Avraham.

So, too, Bnos Tzelafchad approached Moshe at a time when Bnei Yisrael were saying, “Let’s appoint a head and return to Mitzrayim.”

Moshe said to them, “Bnei Yisrael are requesting to return to Mitzrayim and you’re requesting a portion of Eretz Yisrael?” Therefore, they take the reward of the whole nation. (Rav Mordechai Ilan, Mikdash Mordechai)

They had survived the war but the battles weren’t over.

My grandparents fled Germany in 1939 and managed to reach the West Coast of America where they settled and tried to rebuild their lives. They had their constant gratitude, knew they owed their very existence to the One Above, but still, life wasn’t simple. Together with a small group of landsmen they battled for each meal, and each Shabbos as well. Proud generations of Yidden were threatened as the need for survival snatched many of the best families into the jaws of the American dream.

But they persevered. Bit by bit they managed to eke out a living to provide for their families and put down roots on these unfamiliar shores.

Their quiet determination wasn’t that of trailblazers and trendsetters. Rather it was the staunch yekkish determination, a backbone of steel, crafted of the belief that one does the will of De Gutte in Himmel.

Bnos Tzelafchad swam against the current attitude of the generation. Their stance reflected their faith that Hashem would bring them to a good land. This faith was a slap in the face to the rest of the generation and an incredible testimony to all around them. The pasuk bears witness to their good intentions by saying (Bamidbar 26:7): “Yes, the daughters of Tzelafchad have spoken correctly.” The Midrash comments on this, “How fortunate is a person who Hashem testifies to his words.” (ibid.)

The years passed and they succeeded in raising their two sons to be shomrei Shabbos and proud Yidden.

But that wasn’t enough.

Despite the fresh scars of the harrowing war years, despite the knowledge that many of their relatives had not escaped the beasts of destruction, despite the grueling process of putting down roots and carving out stability, they knew there was more.

And so while still teens, my uncle and my father were sent across the country, a train’s journey of several days, to learn in yeshivah on the East Coast.

At a time when most Jews were just happy to be alive, simply grateful they and their children had survived, they chose an empty nest for the promise of a full future.

There were no long-distance phone calls, no quick trips back home for visits. But it was a yeshivah education, and therefore worth all the sacrifice.

A person’s actions aren’t only valued and judged at face value, but also according to the factors surrounding them. The time period, the atmosphere, the overall attitude of others are all defining factors in the value of a person’s actions.

Someone who rises above the level of his generation — who is able to say no when everyone around him is saying otherwise — such a person’s actions are significantly more valuable. The effort not to capitulate to society’s pressures propels his emunah and bitachon into a higher sphere. Such a tzaddik in a wicked generation merits to take the reward of all. (ibid.)

It’s now summertime and the streets of Yerushalayim are conspicuously empty of the yeshivah and seminary students who flood the country during the school year.

Barring finances, for most of today’s parents there’s little of the huge sacrifices that characterized such a year’s study a generation ago. But other challenges hover on our horizons.

We need to find the strength to stand apart, to be the lone voice following what we know is right. There are times when a decision seems correct, but makes us feel isolated in its execution.

When struggling through these issues, I find strength in the whispers of my past — the lone voices before me whose echoes ripple through the generations, giving me strength to face my challenges and continue this legacy. (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 550)