Parshat Pinchas

Daughters of Zelophead

Bamidbar 26:33
Now Zelophehad son of Hepher had no sons, only daughters. The names of Zelophehad’s daughters were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah.

Bamidbar 27:1
The daughters of Zelophehad, of Manassite family – son of Hepher son of Gilead son of Machir son of Manasseh son of Joseph – came forward. The names of the daughters were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. They stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the chieftains, and the whole assembly, at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, and they said, “Our father died in the wilderness. He was not one of the faction, Korah’s faction, which banded together against the LORD, but died for his own sin; and he has left no sons. Let not our father’s name be lost to his clan just because he had no son! Give us a holding among our father’s kinsmen!”

Moses brought their case before the LORD. And the LORD said to Moses, “The plea of Zelophehad’s daughters is just: you should give them a hereditary holding among their father’s kinsmen; transfer their father’s share to them.”

What is the time, place, and audience of the daughters’ presentation of their grievance? How are they defending their claim?

Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe
They are yet another example of the emphasis the Torah places on the importance of the individual. Their simple request, which demonstrated an intense spiritual desire, brought them honor in the eyes of their generation, since Hashem recorded their dialogue in the Torah. Every individual has the potential to leave his mark!

Bamidbar Midrash Rabbah 21:11
In what way is their wisdom evident? In that they spoke at the appropriate time.

Rabbi Henach Leibowitz
The Midrash is teaching us that the crowning virtue of a mensch is common sense — seichel. Without this, a person can possess intellectual brilliance, be a storehouse of knowledge and have wonderful intentions, yet fail in his endeavors. The daughters of Tzelafchad were aware that it made a crucial difference when they approached Moshe and they understood human nature sufficiently to know the appropriate time for their presentation. [Why did they mention Korach?]

One of the most basic elements in chachmas hamussar – understanding human dynamics and psychology – is the complex interaction between man’s mind and his heart. Although we like to believe our thought processes are intellectually honest and free of any bias or emotional influence, this is unfortunately not the case. Every decision, every observation and every assessment of a situation that we make is colored by our feelings and distorted to some degree by our emotions. This emotional factor is known as a negiah – a bias or prejudice.

Rabbi Jack Stern, The Right Not to Remain Silent: Living Morally in a Complex World, “Sermon on Anger”
Animal anger and human anger: But what marks the difference between the two? As in any other emotion or instinct, what marks the difference is that human trait called seichel—a Hebrew word whose meaning finds no exact English equivalent. Seichel is intelligence, but more than that. Seichel is insight, but other than that. Seichel is seichel, that extraordinary human power to assess a moment or a situation or a crisis, to set it within perspective and then to act on the basis of that assessment so that it will produce a maximum of benefit and a minimum of hurt.

And if our seichel tells us that … indeed we have a grievance, then these words from Maimonides in the twelfth century: “When one person wrongs another, the aggrieved must not hate the offender while keeping silent. Rather he ought to inform the offender by saying, “Why did you do this to me? Why did you wrong in this instance …”