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    Five women – Mass’ei

    Twice in the Torah – including the end of this week’s portion – we meet the five daughters of Tzelofchad.

    The daughters of Tzelofchad, Foster Bible Pictures

    Their father had died without sons, and the daughters said it wasnt fair. Why should Tzelofchad’s memory be lost just because he had no male heirs?

    It’s one of the great female protests in early Israelite history. There were other female protests over the centuries, such as the question, “Since women are exempt from positive mitzvot linked to a specific time, why should we be denied the right to hear the sound of the shofar on Rosh HaShanah?”

    History records that women’s advocacy was often successful. It certainly was with the daughters of Tzlofchad.

    We might have thought that the text would simply report their protest as a class action – “This is the story of Tzelofchad’s daughters”. But no: their names are spelled out in detail. Not only was their argument conceded, but we know precisely who they each were.

    The reason is bound up with their plea: “Why should the name of our father be eradicated?” Because they were so concerned for their father’s name, they were rewarded by having their own names recorded and honoured.

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