Before I start with my own brief thoughts, I want to recommend this beautiful column, by Rabbi Hillel Goldberg, Executive Editor of the Intermountain Jewish News in Denver.
The representatives of the Gilad clan of the Tribe of Menashe return to Moshe (Bamidbar 36) in order to resolve the future inheritance due Tzelaphchad, who died without sons. Previously, (Bamidbar 27), the daughters of Tzelaphchad came to Moshe with the problem of their father and his descendants becoming disinherited because he lacked sons, and it was resolved with God clarifying that women are also able to inherit land and property. This time, the further problem is that if any of the daughters marry someone from a different tribe, that land will pass out of the tribal inheritance, destroying the subtle and complex balance represented and manifested by the specific inheritances within the Land of Israel. In order to prevent that, the daughters are all directed to marry someone within their own tribe (Menashe).
On the one hand, this is a very simple, straightforward and almost obvious solution and it might be easy to leave it at that. It seems unreasonable, though, that the Torah comes only to teach us so limited a point of inheritance law, especially one that has been inactive for the vast majority of Jewish history. Rather, it’s also presenting a much more universal lesson. Especially in an age where romantic love is so idealized, it’s easy to form an unrealistic and possibly harmful expectation, namely that there is a “one-and-only” soul-mate/true-love. A great deal of unhappiness can be generated when perfectly good solutions are ignored while the search for the “perfect match” comes up dry. This incident, on the other hand, teaches us that even in an artificially limited pool, in other words in every situation we find ourselves in at the time, at least one good soul-mate, solution, can be found.
One of the most self-destructive things we all do, at least from time to time, is reject a good solution, a good direction, because we’re searching, often in vain, for the perfect one! We forget that, at this stage of existence and our endeavor to refine and perfect the world, we aren’t there yet. In our (both individually and universally) current state, missing opportunities to make even incremental improvements, tiny tikkunim, because they don’t provide instant access to perfection, is an avoidable tragedy.
The first section of the parsha, and R’ Goldberg’s commentary on it, emphasize that the true path is actually made up of small steps.