Bnot Zelophehad: The 50th Gate

The following comes from Reb Zalman on this week’s Torah portion, Pinchas. [NOTES by Gabbai Seth Fishman]

This week, in addition to determining the initial division of the land among the tribes,

[NOTE: Based upon the count of males in each tribe from the time when they had first entered Egypt and also the count of males in the census taken in this portion (Numbers 26:1 ff)],

a system of inheritance was also set up with the goal of preserving the initial parcels of land as an eternal inheritance for each patriarch’s progeny. 

While the law of the Torah concerning inheritance granted the land to the male heirs, there had been no provision for a person who died with only female offspring.

The five daughters of Zelophehad came to Moses, (Numbers 27:1 ff), and asked him if they could inherit their father’s land.   The Torah tells us, (Numbers 27:5), that Moses brought their just claim to God and the word for “just claim” in Hebrew, MishpataN has a final letter Nun written larger:

וַיַּקְרֵב משֶׁה אֶת־מִשְׁפָּטָן לִפְנֵי יְיָ

[NOTE:  According to tradition, when a Sofer writes this phrase in a Torah, the final Nun is written bigger.  The letter Nun is 50 in Gematria.] 

The Kabbalah tells us of 50 Gates of understanding, called Binah.  It is precisely to that 50th gate that Moses had to appeal for an answer to the claim of the women.  While the first 49 Gates given to us are in reach of our understanding and can be accessed with our awareness in conditions of purity,

[NOTE:  For example, when we consciously count Sefirot and the Omer],

the 50th gate is beyond our understanding. 

Besides the larger Nun, another similar point is that the “just claim” was brought lifney YHVH / before Yah.  In other contexts in relation to Yom Kippur, lifney YHVH / before Yah is understood to mean beyond, as in higher than the nameable God, a reaching into the infinite.

[NOTE:  Right brain, intuition, faith-full, open minded, open bodied, waiting to receive, hopefully expectant, (and cf., Leviticus 16:30.)]

The larger Nun (50), and lifney YHVH, together point to transcending time and space to the place from where the messianic awareness of the healed planet, and societies, draws its nurturing.

While one can find a difference of status of males over females in many of the laws of Scripture,

[NOTE:  As, e.g., with the laws of inheritance given to Moses before the daughters brought their claim], 

in the messianic era that difference in status will no longer prevail.  The different status only comes when we see the black letters of the Torah as being the figure within a white ground.  But, as we have learned from Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, in the messianic era, the white letters of the Torah are to be made accessible and legible.

[NOTE:  This and other Levi Yitzchak teachings can be found here:]

In order to do justice to the feminine aspect of life, Moses had to reach into the 50th gate, and bring the daughters’ just claim lifney YHVH / before Yah.

Despite our best efforts to bring about Tikkun Olam / repairs of the world through understandings offered to us by the 49 Gates, we have not been successful.  But with women having become involved in the study and dissemination of Torah, and with their ordinations as rabbis, they may be the ones to help us more directly mediate all awareness and teaching of the 50th gate of understanding.

It is my sincere hope and prayer that the addition of empowered, committed women, latter day “daughters of Zelophehad” will help us all and lead us to an effective way of Tikkun Olam.

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