Friday, 2 July 2021
"And the L-rd said to Moshe, to say:" (B'midbar 27:6)
Without the surrounding context, we can see that Moshe asks a question and HaShem responds. This is amazing: G-d is prepared to entertain questions! Plugging this into its context, Moshe raises the possibility that there is a hole in the Torah as it has been stated so far. "The girls do seem to have a point," he says, "You have stressed the importance of families, clans, genealogies, inheritance rights and knowing everyone by name - but here You seem to be taking that away again by losing their family name and line." G-d concedes: "The daughters of Zelophehad are right" (B'Midbar 27:7, ESV), and then goes on to make it a general rule, applying to all the tribes and families: "If a man dies and has no son, then you shall transfer his inheritance to his daughter" (v. 8, ESV) and only if there is no daughter do the normal male inheritance rules apply. Not only is G-d prepared to entertain questions, this text shows that we can ask questions and expect to get a response - that HaShem is interested in a conversation, not a monologue.
When we get to the gospels, we find Yeshua constantly answering questions. Now, to be sure, people may not have got an answer to the question they appeared to ask - rather the one they didn't really ask - but they always got an answer. Even those asking trick questions or demanding a sign received a response: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's" (Luke 20:25, ESV) or "the sign of the prophet Jonah" (Matthew 12:39, ESV). The only time Yeshua made no answer was before Herod; even Pilate and the Sanhedrin were eventually given something. Think of all the questions Yeshua did answer: "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Mark 10:17, ESV), "Who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:29, ESV), "How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?" (John 4:9, ESV), "Why do you speak to them in parables?" (Matthew 13:10, ESV). Yeshua wants us to ask questions so that we can learn from Him; He wants to be able to quell our uncertainties and meet us when we are afraid or facing times of trial. Questions and answers are a key part of the dialogue that should be at the heart of our relationship with Yeshua.
Rav Sha'ul and the other apostolic writers also show that they are answering questions in their letters and addressing issues that have been the subject of previous letters or conversations. They make it clear that that responsibility devolves onto us today. Paul urges Timothy to, "be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching" (2 Timothy 4:2, ESV). This means: answering questions, fielding queries, responding to challenges - being there for people. This is so important in these days because Sha'ul warns that "the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions" (v. 3, ESV). If we don't answer their questions correctly and truthfully, from the Word of G-d, others will be more than ready to give them politically correct answers that will take people even further away from finding the real answers for their lives; they will "turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths" (v. 4, ESV).
Here's the truth that Moshe understood when he asked HaShem for a legal decision on this point: he was the leader and had a responsibility for all those who looked up to him. He knew that HaShem would reply and give him a definite and non-ambiguous answer that he could use and implement. And here - borrowing Rav Sha'ul's words - is what HaShem meant when He replied: "You must teach these things and encourage the believers to do them. You have the authority to correct them when necessary, so don't let anyone disregard what you say" (Titus 2:15, NLT). We stand in the shoes of Moshe and Sha'ul; we can be certain that when we ask G-d a question, He will provide an answer. Likewise, we follow the example of Yeshua - questions are good and we must answer them, just as Yeshua answers ours.
This is an excerpt taken from the weekly drash for Pinchas.