1 The daughters of Zelophehad son of Hefer son of Gilad son of Machir son of Menashe son of Joseph – these are the names of these daughters: Machlah, Noah, and Hoglah and Milchah and Tirzah https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daughters_of_Zelophehad 2 They stood in front of Moses and in front of Eliezer the priest and in front of the tribal chiefs and the entire community at the entrance to the Mishkan saying: 3 Our father died in the desert and he was not among those in the community that rebelled against YHWH; he died for his own transgression and he had no sons. 4 Why should our father’s name be blotted out of his family because he has no son? Give us a portion with our father’s brothers. 5 Moses brought up their case before YHWH.Numbers 27
Where does outrage begin, behind the eyebrows or at the back of the throat? Did one of the sisters feel agitation arise at the thought of the unjust situation? Where can it be released? Did another sister feel like screaming in anguish so she could be heard in the wilderness? Did the other sisters discuss if it were possible to speak out clearly and civilly to right the wrong?
Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah had been brought up to be respectful and dutiful women, like all those in this company before them. They knew the rules but hadn’t expected to lose Zelophehad, their father, in the desert. Maybe someone told them that the rules of inheritance only apply to sons, unfortunately they had no brother. Could these 5 women live with the pain of losing their father as well as the injustice of losing their inheritance?
One day 5 sisters gained the courage to look at one another and say out loud the things they were thinking, “If we don’t stand up, if we don’t speak out, our family heritage ends here.”
At least one of them was worried that they would be rejected if they came forward with their complaint? Each sister must have had great trepidation. Did any of them shake fearfully while contemplating speaking to Moshe? Hadn’t so many lost their lives when Korah came forward to challenge Moshe?
1 Korach son of Itzhar son of Kehath son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliav, and On, son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, assembled. 2 They got up in front of Moses …Numbers 16
How is courage summoned? Is it found when you look in the eyes of your sisters, stop sighing and think of a plan? A brave plan needed to be formulated to solve that problem and that of so many other women too? Then they stood up, shoulder to shoulder and made their way to the place where Moshe was adjudicating and made their request of inheritance.
16 Wash yourselves, anoint yourselves—remove you’re evil deeds out of my sight: stop doing evil. 17 Learn to do good, seek justice, strengthen the unfortunate; deal justly with the orphan, defend the widow.Isaiah 1
One that fine day, justice was done by Moshe for these brave daughters of Zelophehad and women in the same position in the future.
7 The daughters of Zelophehad have spoken, so give them a portion of the inheritance from their father’s brothers; pass on the inheritance from their father to them. 8 Speak to the children of Israel saying: any man who dies without a son, give his inheritance to his daughter.Numbers 27
Midrash Harabah and English translations by Rabbi Gail Shuster-Bouskila ©2021