• Gabbai

Matot / Masei – Limiting Options

Previously we discussed the daughters of Tzelofechad, exposing the virtues that drove their demand for inheritance. At the very end of the book of Numbers the Torah revisits the story of these ladies, but now they are the object rather than the subject of the narrative. This time it was the leaders of the tribe of Menashe who came to Moses. Tzelofechad had been a member of their tribe, and his portion of land, which was now allocated to his daughters, was within their tribal territory. They anticipated that these daughters of Tzelophechad would be courted by many eligible men. The chances that they would marry within the tribe were 1:12. This presented a problem. While these women were slated to receive their father’s land, their children, who would identify with their fathers’ tribes, would subsequently inherit the land. Unless they married exclusively men from the tribe of Menashe, the land would be lost permanently to the tribe of Menashe.

Moses then delivered God’s instructions in response to this petition. “…rightly does the the tribe of the sons of Joseph speak. This is the matter the Lord has commanded the daughters of Tzelofechad, saying, let them be wives to whomever is good in their eyes, but only to the family of their father’s tribe shall they become wives.” (Numbers 36:5-6)

A special marriage limitation was put into place for that generation, affecting all women who were heirs to territory in the Promised Land. In order that the integrity of the tribal territories be maintained during that first distribution all such women were restricted to marry within their tribes, No land would thus be lost to its tribe of origin through inheritance. These instructions, however, applied exclusively to that generation. Women who inherited lands in subsequent generations were free to choose partners from other tribes despite the possible loss of land to their respective tribes. The integrity of tribal territory was only to be strictly maintained during the initial distribution.