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Shabbat Parashat Matot Masei 5778

Parashat Hashavua: The Women of Menashe Go West

Harav Yosef Carmel

Last week we discussed to what extent Ephrayim came before his older brother Menashe, and we pledged to return to discuss the matter in the context of the daughters of Tzelofchad receiving a part in the Land.

We mentioned that Ephrayim was the head of one quarter of the encampment in the desert. Actually, their special position was maintained in Eretz Yisrael, in that they were closest to the Tribe of Binaymin in whose portion the Beit Hamikdash was found. Despite this fact, the people of Menashe did not accept the prominence of the Tribe of Ephrayim.

When Bnei Yisrael conquered the area of the Gilad on the east bank of the Jordan and the Tribe of Menashe received it as their portion before the rest of Bnei Yisrael conquered the Land of Cana’an, the Sons of Menashe felt that they had “a leg up” on Ephrayim. This was especially true of the family of Machir, children of Menashe from an Aramite concubine (see last week), who were the main ones to inhabit that area. The spiritual problem with this approach is that it gave more importance to the land east of the Jordan, even though it was not part of Eretz Yisrael proper. This issue arose again at the end of Sefer Yehoshua when the tribes of the East Bank built an altar on the border.

The daughters of Tzelafchod were granddaughters of Chefer, the son of Gilad, the oldest son of Machir. Thus, the natural place for the family plot was on the East Bank, with the rest of the Machir family. In the description of the daughters of Tzelofchad story in Yeshoshua (17:4-7), the implication is that they made a specific issue of asking for their portion to be in Eretz Yisrael proper. By their love of Eretz Yisrael, these special women made up for the lack of respect that the rest of their brethren showed.

This helps us appreciate the midrash (Bamidbar Rabba, Pinchas 21:10). The midrash states that the women had much more love and dedication for Eretz Yisrael than the men did. That is why the men died out in the desert and the women entered the Land. The midrash goes on to say that because of this great love of the Land, the daughters of Tzelofchad were actually given two plots of land – one in the east with their cousins and one in the west, where they requested their portion.

This is one more indication of the regard we should have for the daughters of Israel, who showed their love for the Land and were recognized and rewarded for it by Hashem.

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