The Value of Ownership by Alex Kalb


In Parashat Pinchas, the laws of inheritance are mentioned. Tzelafchad’s daughters question Moshe regarding their father’s inheritance which was left ownerless as he died without any sons. They want to take possession of their father’s land in Eretz Yisrael. The Pasuk states, “VeTikravna Benot Tzelafchad, Ben Cheifer, Ben Gil’ad, Ben Machir, Ben Menasheh, LeMishpechot Menasheh Ven Yoseif,” “And the daughters of Tzelafchad, the son of Cheifer, the son of Gilad, the son of Machir, the son of Menasheh, from the family of Menasheh the son of Yosef drew near”(BeMidbar 27:1). Rashi explains that by tracing the lineage of the daughters of Tzelafchad all the way back to Yosef, the Torah shows us that the only reason that they were concerned with the inheritance was because they loved Eretz Yisrael.

Rav Moshe Feinstein, in his Darash Moshe, poses the following question. It’s true that the Torah demonstrates that the daughters of Tzelafchad weren’t interested in financial gain. Why, then, did they desperately desire their own portion in Eretz Yisrael? They were obviously going to live there anyway. Why did their love for Eretz Yisrael push them to ask for their own portion of land?

Rav Moshe tells us that from here we learn a very valuable lesson. When someone desires something greatly, it is not sufficient to merely have it. It must be his, personally; only then can he take full pleasure in it. Therefore, it was insufficient for the daughters of Tzelafchad to merely live in Eretz Yisrael. They wanted to own a portion of it as well.

Rav Moshe uses his answer to develop a possible understanding of the Mitzvah to write and own a Sefer Torah, which is expanded by some Rishonim to the owning of other Sefarim as well. He explains that it’s not enough to borrow whatever books one needs for study from others, because one’s love for Torah should stimulate inside him the desire to own the Torah itself. Additionally, with respect to Torah, there’s an even deeper level of ownership that one should have as well. The Gemara in Kidushin explains that when one begins to study Torah, he is studying the Torah of Hashem; but as he continues to study and absorb it, it becomes part of him and is considered his Torah. Let us all work hard to achieve this worthy goal and truly make the Torah ours.

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