Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Pinchas
To dedicate this lesson

The Authority of Leaders


Rabbi Yossef Carmel

The daughters of Tzlufchad introduced their request to inherit their father’s portion in the Land of Israel with an explanation of his death, stressing the negative: "He was not within the group that gathered against Hashem in the assemblage of Korach" (Bamidbar 27:3). Let us deal with the obvious question: what difference does the reason for Tzlufchad’s death make in regard to his daughters’ ability to inherit his portion?
We proved in the past that Moshe had the standing of a king, and thus Korach’s group, who questioned Moshe’s authority, were mordim b’malchut (rebels against the king). There are differing opinions among Tannaim about whether the property of mordim b’malchut goes to their inheritors or to the king, against whom they rebelled (Sanhedrin 48b). In contrast, all agree that when one is executed by beit din, his inheritors receive his property. The Yerushalmi (Makkot 2:7) uses one of the opinions to explain the conversation between Yoav and Benayahu as to where Yoav would be executed. Yoav preferred to be put to death by beit din rather than by King Shlomo’s officer, so that his children would inherit him. The Rambam (Avel 1:9) also accepts this assumption. This also explains why King Achav seized Navot Hayizraeli’s vineyard after executing him as a mored b’malchut.
Now we can understand Tzlufchad’s daughters. These astute women made their claim to Moshe for inheritance after informing him that their father was not a mored b’malchut and thus there was no reason for Moshe to inherit him. (One can prove that Moshe was unwilling to benefit monetarily from his public role and did not take the property of Korach’s group either.)
We know that a king can execute those who rebel against him and then seize their property. Can he skip a step? In other words, may the king say that he will not kill a mored b’malchut but only seize his property? The Minchat Chinuch (497) posits that the king certainly can, for if he has the power to take one’s life, obviously he has the authority to take his money, which is a lesser consequence.
The Shiurei David (Sanhedrin 48b) asks the following questions. According to the Minchat Yitzchak, why does the Rambam bring the law of the king getting the property in the Laws of Mourning, which implies that it has to do with death specifically? Also, how did Yoav plan to gain by having beit din execute him if the king could have anyway confiscated his property?
On the other hand, how can one argue on the Minchat Chinuch’s strong logic? It seems that the laws come to protect the property of the citizen. If a king could claim that a subject rebelled and take only his property, it would be very tempting to do so. The king could say to himself that it is "only a matter of money." However, if the condition is that the accused is executed, then even a moderately corrupt king would find it unconscionable to kill in order to steal property.
It turns out that we can learn from Tzlufchad’s daughters not only laws of inheritance but also laws of proper government. Let us hope that we will merit leaders who take Moshe’s lead and not use their leadership roles to make money.
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