An achuzah in Eretz Yisrael is a tremendous tikkun
“Give us a possession among our father’s brothers.”
After their father, Tzelafchad, was killed, his daughters approached Moshe to request his inheritance. This incident took place in the 40th year in the desert. Yet it’s adjacent to the description of what happened with the spies during Bnei Yisrael’s second year in the Midbar. The juxtaposition highlights the sharp contrast between the two — the men of this generation, guilty of despising the land, were decreed to die in the desert. The women, on the other hand, such as Bnos Tzelafchad, had tremendous appreciation for Eretz Yisrael. (Rav Avigdor Nebenzahl )
The little girls jumped rope as the wind blew softly through the narrow alley, rustling the leaves on the nearby trees. I watched them for a moment, drawn by their long braids, all swinging in rhythm as the rope hit the ancient stones. If my mother’s life had taken a different trajectory, would I have been one of those little girls? Would my children too have stayed within the shelter of those small back streets, content in their world? I was only 18 on that summer afternoon, young enough to be curious about my own future, but old enough to know of the role my past played in my present.
These questions had often haunted me, but never more than now, as I faced the small stone structure that was my mother’s first home. Batei Naittan was a cluster of such small buildings, several blocks behind Meah Shearim. Here my mother was born; my uncles hurried to shul along these same stones. Generations of my grandmother’s family had been born, lived, died — all within a small radius of this spot.
How does Bnos Tzelafchad requesting their inheritance indicate their love for Eretz Yisrael? What if the Jews had stayed in the desert, or if Tzelafchad only had left behind gold and silver — wouldn’t they have still asked for their inheritance? I believe that the proof lies in their choice of words, requesting an “achuzah — a foothold” in Eretz Yisrael, not mere property.
As I entered the small home, I felt a hushed reverence fall over me. The ceiling was domed, the floor wide ancient stone tiles with a dark mosaic pattern. One large room, with another small room attached — and that was it. The entire house. The tiny galley kitchen added somewhat haphazardly had not been there when my mother lived there. Water was drawn from the well in the courtyard, and she and her siblings had lived within the four walls of the one living room, the small bedroom belonging to my grandparents.
How was my life so starkly different just several short decades later? I was born on a bustling avenue, in a house that no longer exists — it had been razed to make room for change. Here, change had no place. What was good then was good now. I yearned for the contentment in life that they’d had.
Chazal (Bava Basra 119b) praise Bnos Tzelafchad as wise and righteous. Simply requesting an inheritance doesn’t display righteousness. Non-Jews also demand what’s rightfully theirs. Look at the many court cases! Bnos Tzelafchad were wise because they understood that the purpose of inheritance was to provide a tikkun, a correction, for the soul of the departed. If a man was unsuccessful in maximizing his potential in serving Hashem in his lifetime, his beneficiaries can rectify this, by using his inheritance in the correct manner. I believe this is how my rebbi, HaRav Dessler z”l, explained Bnos Tzelafchad’s request. Eretz Yisrael is completely designated for serving Hashem. An achuzah in Eretz Yisrael is a tremendous tikkun.
Leaving the house, I felt my conviction to live here in Eretz Yisrael — which had been slowly growing over the course of my year in seminary — become firmly entrenched. I longed to stay here in Eretz Yisrael, to continue to what my ancestors had known: that life in this Land was eternally linked Above.
My sister and I both managed to make it work, managed to withstand the pain of being separate from our nuclear family but connected to our greater family, both past and present. As the soft breeze sets the leaves shaking in my own small garden, I’m grateful for the legacy that allowed me to put down roots for my family’s future.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 749)
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