So Zelophehad's daughters did as the LORD commanded Moses. Zelophehad's daughters Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milkah and Noah married their cousins on their father's side. Numbers 36:10-11
The Torah portion for this week is a double reading, Matot-Massei, from Numbers 30:2-36:13. Matot means branches and Massei means journey. The Haftorah is from Jeremiah 2:4-28; 4:1-2.
As we conclude the book of Numbers this week, we finish more than just the fourth of the Five Books of Moses. Deuteronomy, which basically consists of Moses' farewell speech before he died and the Israelites entered the Promised Land, is more or less a summary of the Bible so far. Therefore, the end of the book of Numbers is the conclusion of the narrative part of the Hebrew Bible. It's the end of the story that began with creation and concluded with the people of Israel about to enter Israel.
So how does this story end? Many people aren't familiar with the story that takes place at the conclusion of Numbers. On the surface, it's not the most compelling story in the Bible, and to some, it seems anticlimactic.
The story is a continuation of one that began nearly 10 chapters earlier when the five daughters of Zelophehad approached Moses asking for their inheritance. They felt that it was unfair that since their father had died without any sons, his progeny would have no inheritance in the land. Moses consulted with God and ruled that these women could inherit their father's portion. However, in this chapter, the members of Zelophehad's tribe realized that this being the case, if the daughters married out of the tribe, the land would be lost to the tribe forever. Moses ruled that the women must marry within their own tribe so that they would both inherit the land and the land would remain in the tribal territory.
So what is so remarkable about this story that it concludes this important section of the Bible?
In essence, this story encapsulates the most important values of the Bible - values that took the Israelites 38 years of wandering to learn. The first was being obedient to God no matter what. The daughters of Zelophehad could have protested the restrictions placed on them, but they accepted the ruling with love. Secondly, they honored God's chosen leader, Moses, and remained faithful to his leadership. Finally, there was mutual respect and peace among the people. No civil war broke out over the controversy, and the daughters found love within their tribe. In short, this story is one of faith, obedience, and love for one another - and that, in short, is what the Bible is all about.
Serving God is not complicated at all. As this story illustrates, all it really takes is faith, obedience, and love of our fellow man. And while these values may take a lifetime to master, the rewards are worth it. After this last story demonstrating the character of the people, the Israelites were finally ready to step into their full destiny.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President