This Shabbat we conclude reading the fourth Book of the Torah, Numbers, Bamidbar. Two groups approach Moses with requests that are different.
One group is called B’nei — the sons of. The other is called B’not — the daughters of.
The Sons (B’nei) of Gad and Reuven did not want to cross into Canaan with the other tribes. They preferred to remain on the eastern side of the Jordan River and settle in especially fertile land there. These were areas newly conquered from the kingdoms of Sihon and Og.
The Daughters (B’not) of Tselafchad were concerned that their family would lose its share in the Land of Israel because their father died without any male heirs.
The two tribes were concerned with their material standing in the new land, in contrast to Moses, who spoke of a Divine mission.
Though they offered to lead the way into the Land of Canaan, their offer was merely a quid pro quo — they would contribute to the conquest of the Land in return for the region they desired.
They stated: “We will build pens for our flocks here and cities for our children…”
Rashi points out their mention of cattle first before their children. This was corrected by Moses, who set their priorities straight.
In contrast, B’not Tselafchad, the daughters of Tselafchad, did want a share in Israel. They had a pure love for the Land of Israel. Their request was not tied into any “deal” with Moses or the nation. They possessed a pure love of The Land.
God rules in their favor and instructs Moses that these five daughters will indeed inherit their portion of land in the tribe of Menashe.
The Midrash makes two points about their righteousness:
- They were extraordinary women, wise and righteous. All five are named individually by the Torah. They are included in the list of great women in the Bible.
- It was these five women and other women like them of that generation who fixed the breaches that the men had created. It was always the men who did not want to enter the Land. The daughters of Tselafchad were the antidote to the mentality of the two tribes who focused exclusively on the material nature of their land portions.
The defenders of the State of Israel, including the Israel Defense Forces, all of the country’s security forces, its police force — and all of Israel’s loyal citizens — are all the spiritual descendants of B’not Tselafchad.
May Hashem protect them in the weeks and months ahead.
Rabbi Howard Wolk
Rabbi Wolk is Community Chaplain with Jewish Family Service and Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Shaare Tefilla. He is a member of the Rabbinic Association of Greater Dallas.