In our parsha we read of Tzlophchad's daughters' claim (Bamidbar 27):
"And the daughters of Tzlophchad came forward…They stood before Moshe and before Elazar the Kohen and before the chieftains and the entire congregation at the entrance to Ohel Mo'ed saying: Our father died in the desert…and he had no sons. Why should our father's name be erased from his family because he had no son? Give us a land holding among our father's brethren."
Our Sages emphasized, on several occasions, Tzlophchad's daughters' devotion to Eretz Yisrael, in contrast to the men of that generation. This is what they say in Sifre 133: "Give us a land holding among our father's brethren". The women surpassed the men. The men said: "Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt" (Bamidbar 14, 4). But the women said "Give us a land holding among our father's brethren."
However – we must query: How do Chazal know that the demand for land in Eretz Yisrael derives from idealistic motives? May it not have been simply a greedy, materialistic request?
A similar case in point is the request which the tribes Reuven and Gad directed to Moshe (Bamidbar 32), phrased very delicately:"And they said: if we have found favor in your eyes, let this land be given to thy servants as a heritage, do not take us across the Jordan".
As opposed to this, Tzlophchad's daughters made an unceremonious demand, devoid of niceties - "Give us a portion of land".
While Tzlophchad's daughters' demand is favorably received by Moshe, Reuven and Gad are reprimanded severely by him! Why?
The simple explanation is that the tribes of Reuven and Gad requested a portion of land outside the Promised Land, while Tzlophchad's daughters wanted a heritage in the Land itself. However, when Moshe addresses the two tribes, it is clear that there is another problem here. Moshe feels that Reuven and Gad are apprehensive about entering and conquering the land. They fear the prospect of war – and prefer the certainty of Trans-Jordan (which has already been conquered) to the uncertainty of Eretz Yisrael. Moshe senses that they are not confident that the Land will ultimately be given to them: "Why do you discourage the children of Israel from crossing over to the land…Thus did your fathers do when I sent them from Kadesh Barne'a to explore the land (ibid., 7-8).
Moshe rebuked them since he felt that their main objective was economic stability.
Tzlophchad's daughters' argument concerns the Promised Land, and not the land already conquered east of the Jordan! From Am Yisrael's point of view – this seems like an argument about an entity which as yet exists only in theory. As far as Tzlophchad's daughters are concerned, however, the Promised Land is already concrete and tangible!
Let us try to explain this with the aid of a parable: There was once a Chassid who was desperately poor, and thought to improve his situation by buying a lottery ticket. This he did, and went to his Rebbe to request a blessing. The Rebbe blessed him and told him that his ticket would win. When the other Chassidim heard of this, one of them offered to pay the impoverished Chassid half the amount of the winning sum in exchange for the ticket. The Chassid agreed to the deal, and handed over the ticket. Naturally – the ticket won the lottery!
Most people would give up the ticket in exchange for half of the winning sum, because even given belief in the Rebbe's blessing – can we perceive it as something tangible, as reality?! All the more so in the case of a lottery ticket without the Rebbe's blessing…
For most of Am Yisrael in the desert, Eretz Yisrael was no different than a lottery ticket (maybe even a lottery ticket without a Rebbe's blessing). True, the land is the "Promised Land", but the promise seems far-off; at best – a hope that it will be fulfilled. One does not argue or go to battle over a lottery ticket!
This is how Chazal knew that Tzlophhchad's daughters' motivation was their faith and trust in Hashem. In the surrounding climate within Am Yisrael at that point – putting up a fight for Eretz Yisrael constituted proof of unreserved, whole-hearted faith in Him.
Theirs was not a material demand, since one does not fight over "promises". Their focus was concern for the perpetuation of their father's name and memory. They were confident of the future settlement in the Land and willing to fight publicly for the right to receive a portion of Eretz Yisrael - thus imbuing the people of Israel with their own faith.
Tzlophchad's daughters regarded Hashem's promise as absolute reality, and they taught this lesson to the entire nation.
We may believe in many things, but these beliefs are not always deeply rooted in us. Let us try to follow in the footsteps of Tzlophchad's daughters and instill within ourselves their deep-rooted faith – in Hashem and His justness, in our right to Eretz Yisrael and in the coming of Mashiach. This genuine faith will be, please G-d, another step towards our redemption.