Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

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Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Parshat Massei

Zelofchad's Daughters Part 2

This week's parsha and Sefer Bemidbar ends with the second part of the story of Zelofchad's daughters.

We had already seen that God said that these girls could become landownes as their father, who was dead, did not have sons.

Now their tribal elders from Machir, a clan of Menasheh, complain that should any of these girls marry outside of the tribe, Menasheh's portion would become decreased.

So therefore, a new piece of legislation is legislated. From now on, all women who are land owners can only marry within their tribe (see Bemidbar Chapter 36).

Why was this story split into two, so that the second part occurs out of place some nine chapters later?

The answer lies at the end of Sefer Bereshit. There we see that: "Yoseph saw children of a third generation [born] to Ephraim; also the sons of Machir the son of Manasseh were born on Yoseph's knees" (Bereshit 50:23).

Yoseph brought up Machir. The very next passuk states: Yoseph said to his brothers, "I am going to die; God will surely remember you and take you up out of this land to the land that He swore to Avraham, to Yitschak, and to Yaakov" (ibid 24).

While the rest of Israel were being very successful in Egypt, Yoseph was already looking forward to the return to Eretz Yisrael. This was a message that he seemed to teach Machir, the son of Menasheh.

Therefore, rather than ending Sefer Bereshit with the laws of the accidental killer and the setting up of cities of refuge (Bemidbar Chapter 35), the Torah wanted to end on a more optimistic note of the enthusiastic settlement of Menasheh of Eretz Yisrael. Therefore it left this part of the story for the end of the book.

Another Sedra Short on Parshat Massei, entitled: "Tribe and Tribalism" appears at

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Blogger David Kohn said...

Interesting, but didn't Machir inherit land outside of Israel (see Joshua 17:1)? The elders who approach Moshe in Chapter 36 represent Machir's six grandchildren, and they presumably do not represent Machir (for Machir and his son Gilad constitute their own clans in the census of Bemidbar Chapter 26). That is why they are called "the leaders from the families of the sons of Gilad" (Bemidbar 36:1).

Still, a nice connection between Yosef's love of Israel and that of his great great granddaughters. I just don't know if it connects well to the complaint of the elders, who seemingly would have let Zelofchad's daughters marry the children of Machir but not those of Ephraim (although he equally loved the land by the implications of Bereshit 50:23).

8:05 AM  

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