The Daughters of Zelophehad

Jul 5, 2015

וַתִּקְרַבְנָה בְּנוֹת צְלָפְחָד בֶּן־חֵפֶר בֶּן־גִּלְעָד בֶּן־מָכִיר בֶּן־מְנַשֶּׁה לְמִשְׁפְּחֹת מְנַשֶּׁה בֶן־יוֹסֵף וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹת בְּנֹתָיו מַחְלָה נֹעָה וְחָגְלָה וּמִלְכָּה וְתִרְצָה׃

The daughters of Tzelofchad, of Manassite family—son of Hepher son of Gilad son of Machir son of Menashe son of Yosef—came forward. The names of the daughters were Machla, Noa, Chagla, Milka, and Tirtza.

Numbers 27:1

וְאִם־אֵין אַחִים לְאָבִיו וּנְתַתֶּם אֶת־נַחֲלָתוֹ לִשְׁאֵרוֹ הַקָּרֹב אֵלָיו מִמִּשְׁפַּחְתּוֹ וְיָרַשׁ אֹתָהּ וְהָיְתָה לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לְחֻקַּת מִשְׁפָּט כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהֹוָה אֶת־מֹשֶׁה׃

If his father had no brothers, you shall assign his property to his nearest relative in his own clan, and he shall inherit it.' This shall be the law of procedure for the Israelites, in accordance with Hashem's command to Moshe.”

Numbers 27:11

As it becomes apparent that the nation is about to enter the land, the five brotherless daughters of Zelophehad approach Moses with an unusual request. Their father, they explain, perished in the desert, but was not among those who were punished with losing their claim to a portion of the land. Since they have no brothers, however, there is no descendent qualified to inherit the land their father should have received. They ask Moses if they may inherit his portion.

 

Moses consults God on the matter, Who says the women are right. He instructs Moses to give them their father’s inheritance and states for all time that where there are no sons, daughters may inherit from their fathers. If the deceased is childless, his share passes to his surviving brother or his brother’s heirs. If he has no brother, it reverts to his father’s brothers and, if not, to his next closest relative.

 

The Israel Bible highlights the daughters’ love for the Land of Israel. It is no coincidence that their lineage is traced back to Joseph, who loved Israel so much he made his brothers swear to take his remains back to the Holy Land when they left Egypt.

 

Virtual Classroom Discussion

This story deals with women’s rights in Torah law. How does it fit into your expectations of the portrayal of women in the Torah? Is it surprising? Why or why not?

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