In education, we need to play the long game.
One of the many topics in the parshah is B’nos Tz’lafchad’s request for independent land in Eretz Yisrael. The story is introduced with a detailed identification of these women, and their lineage is traced all the way back to not only Menashe (the founder of the tribe), but their ancestor, Yosef (BaMidbar 27:1). It is unusual for the Torah to include so much background information, especially since the full genealogy of Yosef – including the daughters of Tz’lafchad themselves – was listed just one chapter earlier (ibid. 26:28-33).
Rashi explains that the Torah links B’nos Tz’lafchad to Yosef in order to draw a parallel between their common love for the Land of Israel. As these five sisters bravely stepped in front of the entire nation to insist on their entitlement to Hashem’s special land, it was reminiscent of another person who took dramatic steps to ensure his rightful place in Eretz Yisrael.
Before his death, Yosef made his relatives swear that they would transport his remains back to Israel. Blessed with the foreknowledge that the Jewish people would not be released from Egypt for another century, Yosef made his brothers and children promise that they, in turn, would make their own children and grandchildren swear to carry out his final request (Rashi, Sh’mos 13:19). Like his descendants nearly 200 years later, Yosef exhibited undying love for Hashem’s chosen land.
My rebbe, Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky shlita, suggested that, by inserting Yosef’s name among B’nos Tz’lafchad, the Torah is doing more than simply highlighting their Zionistic similarities. By relating these women and their admirable behavior all the way back to Yosef, the Torah is ascribing credit to Yosef for instilling this crucial value in his family line. It is no coincidence that the daughters of Tz’lafchad possessed a burning desire for Eretz Yisrael; with an ancestor like Yosef, how could they not? Yosef not only taught his children that they had a birthright to Israel, but he made sure that they would perpetuate that message to their children and grandchildren after them.
Aside from planting this principle to blossom after his death, Yosef was hands-on in educating many generations of offspring during his lifetime. In fact, Tz’lafchad’s own grandfather was one of the children that Yosef personally raised on his lap (B’reishis 50:23)! It is no wonder, then, that Yosef’s direct and indirect influence produced progeny who championed his legacy, an undying love for the holy land.
It is possible, Rabbi Sobolofsky continued, that Yosef did not see many results of his endeavors while he was alive. After all, generation after generation remained imprisoned in Egypt, without opportunity to demonstrate love for Eretz Yisrael. Perhaps, at times, Yosef even felt frustrated, and doubted if his teachings were having any effect. It is only with the benefit of hindsight that we can clearly see the rewards of his efforts. As B’nos Tz’lafchad embodied true passion for Eretz Yisrael, the Torah reminds us of the root of their devotion. Yosef’s name was included to reflect the presence of the proud zeide whose influence remained palpable.
Often, the effects of chinuch are not readily identifiable. At times, it can feel frustrating when it does not appear that our children or students are absorbing the values we are desperately trying to impart. From the example of Yosef, we can rest assured that by planting seeds today, there will always be growth in the future. When our most important values are embodied, and not only preached, they are certain to take root in the offspring. It may take a while until the fruits become apparent, but the satisfaction – and credit – are sure to come in the end.