Friday, July 20, 2012

Random Musing Before Shabbat–Matot-Masei 5772– And the Punting Goes On

Last week I wrote about the story of Zelophehad’s daughters, and how it wasn’t the triumphant endorsement of women’s rights as we like to frame it these days.

As I wrote, I managed to restrain myself from adding in the last bit of supporting evidence, which I knew was coming in this parasha.

It in is parshat Masei that we read of the claim of the Manassite clan, the clan to which the daughters of Zelophehad belonged, that if the daughtgers were to marry outside the clan, then this inheritance would be lost to the clan. The rights would transfer to the clan into which the daughters married. Thus, when it came time to apportion out the pieces of the promised land, the Manassites could lose some of what they believed should be theirs.

It’s clear that the Manassite clan, indeed the whole confederation of Josephite clans understood that the rights were given to Zelophehad’s daughters only as instruments through which to transfer the rights of their father and have it remain in his clan.

In a (perverse? misogynistic?) echo of the words used to convey G”d’s decision to Zelophehad’s daughters, we again read:

“So Moses, at the Lord's bidding, instructed the Israelites, saying ‘The plea of the Josephite tribe is just.’ ” (36:5 – JPS)

It uses the same Hebrew word, “ken” which is translated as “just” (by the JPS.)

It’s interesting to note that in the case of Zelophehad’s daughters, the text clearly states that Moses brought the matter to G”d.  In this case, it merely states that Moses replied at G”d’s bidding. Some rabbis interpreted this to mean that G”d had already anticipated this situation and included that in the instruction originally given to Moses, so Moses already knew that daughters were expected to marry within their own tribe. I find that hardly plausible.

I think this is a fairly typical case of decisions being made (even by G”d) without fully thinking through the consequences. Precision matters. Language matters. The original instructions regarding the claim of Zelophehad’s daughters was inadequate from the get go.

Punting seems to be a popular biblical tactic. I’ve previously written, about this particular parasha as a matter of fact, about Moses’ punting on the matter of the tribes that asked to settle on the east side of the Jordan.

I think these further clarifications of the situation regarding Zelophehad’s daughter are just another punt. A whoops and a quick fix.

I mean, you gotta just love this:

This is what the Lord has commanded concerning the daughters of Zelophehad: They may marry anyone they wish, provided they marry into a clan of their father's tribe. (36:6 – JPS)

But wait – it gets better – whether at the hand of G”d and/or Moses, or by later redactors – the following condition is added:

No inheritance of the Israelites may pass over from one tribe to another, but the Israelites must remain bound each to the ancestral portion of his tribe. 8 Every daughter among the Israelite tribes who inherits a share must marry someone from a clan of her father's tribe, in order that every Israelite may keep his ancestral share. 9 Thus no inheritance shall pass over from one tribe to another, but the Israelite tribes shall remain bound each to its portion. (36: 7-9 – JPS)

Just in case we weren’t clear a while back. This is what we meant to say, and what we said, even if you didn’t hear it that way. You just weren’t following the conversation in our heads. It made perfect sense to us.

Well, if you meant it the first time, why didn’t you just say it? Thank you, G”d and Moses, for yet another imprecise commandment and a quick amplification to help. Just wait until you see what the rabbis do with your words.

Shabbat Shalom,

©2012 by Adrian A. Durlester

Other Musings on this parasha:

Masei 5771 - Cause and Effect
Matot 5771 - Don't Become Like...Them
Matot-Masei 5770 - Treasure Trove of Trouble
Masei 5768 - Accidents Matter
Matot 5768/5765-Even Moshe Rabbeinu Had to Punt
Matot-Masei 5766 - First Fruit
Matot-Masey 5764-Putting the Kids Before the Kids
Matot--Masey 5763-Over the Top
Matot--Masey 5762--The Rebel's Complaint and Promises, Promises


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