וַתִּקְרַבְנָה בְּנוֹת צְלָפְחָד. אוֹתוֹ הַדּוֹר הַנָּשִׁים הָיוּ גּוֹדְרוֹת מַה שֶּׁאֲנָשִׁים פּוֹרְצִין. שֶׁכֵּן אַתְּ מוֹצֵא שֶׁאָמַר לָהֶם אַהֲרֹן, פָּרְקוּ נִזְמֵי הַזָּהָב (שמות לב, ב), וְלֹא רָצוּ הַנָּשִׁים וּמִחוּ בְּבַעֲלֵיהֶן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וַיִּתְפָּרְקוּ כָּל הָעָם וְגוֹ' (שם פסוק ג), וְהַנָּשִׁים לֹא נִשְׁתַּתְּפוּ בְּמַעֲשֵׂה הָעֵגֶל. וְכֵן בַּמְּרַגְּלִים שֶׁהוֹצִיאוּ דִּבָּה, וַיָּשׁוּבוּ וַיָּלִינוּ עָלָיו (במדבר יד, לו). וַעֲלֵיהֶם נִגְזְרָה גְּזֵרָה, שֶׁאָמְרוּ, לֹא נוּכַל לַעֲלוֹת אֶל הָעָם (שם יג, לא). אֲבָל הַנָּשִׁים לֹא הָיוּ עִמָּהֶם בְּעֵצָה, שֶׁהָרֵי כְּתִיב לְמַעְלָה מִן הָעִנְיָן, כִּי אָמַר ה' לָהֶם מוֹת יָמוּתוּ בַּמִּדְבָּר וְלֹא נוֹתַר מֵהֶם אִישׁ וְגוֹ' (שם כו, סה), אִישׁ וְלֹא אִשָּׁה, עַל מַה שֶּׁלֹּא רָצוּ לְהִכָּנֵס לָאָרֶץ. אֲבָל הַנָּשִׁים, קֵרְבוּ עַצְמָן לְבַקֵּשׁ נַחֲלָה. וַתִּקְרַבְנָה בְּנוֹת צְלָפְחָד. וּלְכָךְ נִכְתְּבָה פָּרָשָׁהּ זוֹ סָמוּךְ לְמִיתַת מִרְיָם, שֶׁמִּשָּׁם פָּרְצוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים וְגָדְרוּ הַנָּשִׁים. דָּבָר אַחֵר, וַתִּקְרַבְנָה בְּנוֹת צְלָפְחָד וְגוֹ', גְּדֻלָּה לָהֶם וּגְדֻלָּה לַאֲבִיהֶם, גְּדֻלָּה לְמָכִיר וּגְדֻלָּה לִמְנַשֶּׁה, וּגְדֻלָּה לְיוֹסֵף, שֶׁכָּךְ יָצְאוּ מִמֶּנּוּ נָשִׁים חֲכָמוֹת צִדְקָנִיּוֹת. וּמַה חָכְמָתָן, שֶׁלְּפִי שָׁעָה דִּבְּרוּ, שֶׁהָיָה מֹשֶׁה עוֹסֵק בְּפָרָשַׁת נַחֲלוֹת, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: לָאֵלֶּה תֵּחָלֵק הָאָרֶץ. אָמְרוּ לוֹ: אִם כְּבֵן אָנוּ, נִירַשׁ כְּבֵן. וְאִם לָאו, תִּתְיַבֵּם אִמֵּנוּ. מִיָּד, וַיַּקְרֵב מֹשֶׁה אֶת מִשְׁפָּטָן. צִדְקָנִיּוֹת הָיוּ, שֶׁלֹּא נִשְּׂאוּ אֶלָּא לֶהָגוּן לָהֶם. וְלָמָּה זִמְּנוּ לְמֹשֶׁה בָּאַחֲרוֹנָה. שֶׁלֹּא יִרְאֶה מֹשֶׁה עַצְמוֹ שֶׁפָּרַשׁ מִן הָאִשָּׁה אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה, הוֹדִיעוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא בְּאֵלּוּ לוֹמַר, הֲרֵי הַנָּשִׁים שֶׁלֹּא נִצְטַוּוּ, יָשְׁבוּ אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה עַד שֶׁנִּשְּׂאוּ לֶהָגוּן לָהֶם.
(Numb. 27:1:) “Then came forward the daughters of Zelophehad.” In that generation the women were fencing11On raising a fence about the Law, see Avot 1:1. that which the men were breaching.12Numb. R. 21:10. Accordingly you find that Aaron said to them (i.e., the men in Exod. 32:2), “Take off the gold rings [that are in the ears of your wives…]”; but the women were unwilling and protested against their husbands. Thus it is stated (in vs. 3), “So all the people took off the gold rings that were in their13Since “their” is masculine here, there is an implication that the men only took their own earrings. ears.” Thus the women did not take part in making the [golden] calf. So also in the case of the spies who had spread slander (according to Numb. 14:36), “when they returned, they made [the whole congregation] murmur against him.” A decree was issued against them, because they had said (in Numb. 13:31), “We are unable to go up [against this people for they are stronger than us].” The women, however, were not with them in their counsel. What is written above the matter (in Numb. 26:65)? “Because the Lord had said to them, ‘They shall surely die in the wilderness,’ not a man of them remained.” [Note that Scripture speaks of] “a man,” and not of "a woman.” Because they (i.e., the men) did not want to enter the land, but the women came forward to ask for an inheritance [in the land]; (Numb. 27:1) “Then came forward the daughters of Zelophehad.” Therefore the parashah [about the death of that generation] was written next to this parashah, because what the men broke down the women fenced in. Another interpretation (of Numb. 27:1), “Then came forward [the daughters of Zelophehad ben Hepher ben Gilead ben Machir ben Manasseh, of the families of Manasseh ben Joseph”: [Their action was] an honor to them. [It was also] an honor to their father, an honor to Machir, an honor to Manasseh and an honor to Joseph that such righteous and wise women had issued from him.14Numb. R. 21:11. But what was their wisdom? They [only] spoke up at the proper time, when Moses was busy with the parashah about inheritance (in accordance with Numb. 26:53), “To these shall you apportion the land [for an inheritance].” [So what was their wisdom? That] they said to him, “If we are like a son, let us inherit; but if not, let our mother perform levirate marriage (marry her husband's brother).”15His duty would be to rear children in the name of the deceased father. On levirate marriage generally, see Deut. 25:5-6: also Gen. 38:8-9; Ruth 4:5. Immediately (in Numb. 27:5), “Moses brought their cause before the Lord.” They were righteous, In that they had never been married to someone unworthy of them. Then why did they meet with Moses now? So that he would not [put on airs] over having abstained from his wife for forty years.16Since Moses regularly stood in the Divine Presence, he needed to preserve an unbroken state of purity. The Holy One, blessed be He, informed him through these [women], saying, “Here are women who without being commanded [remained unmarried] for forty years, until they were married to someone worthy of them.”