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Torah Commentary Blog

Parashat Pinchas (July 11, 2015)
by Robyn Weinstein Cimbol

The Daughters of Zelophehad: Thinking Outside the Tent

IT’S VERY TEMPTING to turn this into a feminist manifesto. Indeed, there are nearly 1,000 men identified by name in the Torah but fewer than 200 women. The fact that we know the names of all five of Zelophehad’s daughters is significant, and they are referred to by name not once but several times. The presenting issue is that Zelophehad, a member of the generation of Israelites who departed from Egypt under Moses’ leadership, had died during the 40 years in the wilderness. He had no sons and five daughters (but there is no mention of a wife/mother). Now a census is being taken in order to apportion the Land among the tribes and clans. The projected allotment of the Land, based upon this census in which only men were counted, would have deprived the clan of Manasseh of the share due to Zelophehad. If he’d had sons, they would have been counted, but his daughters (Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah) were not to receive a portion according to the distribution equation.

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