Summary: Daughters of Zelophehad went against current custom to ask for their inheritance. By asking God amended the Law.
Chapter 26, the last chapter in last week’s parsha was the report of a census taken at God’s command. In this census, just prior to going into the Land, all the tribes are listed and their population of men is recorded. Note I said men, not men, women, and children. Society in those days was very much Patriarchal.
That meant that women were not regarded as being equal to men. They were little more than property, like a horse, or cow. Women had few rights. So it would appear that the land of milk and honey was available only to men and not women. That doesn’t seem fair to us today.
The daughters of Zelophehad were facing a dilemma. Their father had perished in the wilderness along with everyone else of his generation because of the sin of Israel when the 10 spy’s report was accepted over the report of Joshua and Caleb. Their father had died without a male heir. That was a big deal in ancient times. Hey, it can be a big deal in today’s world. I knew a pastor that had 4 daughters before finally getting his son. They stopped at that point. But the laws of inheritance dictated that a man have a son.
These 5 daughters of Zelophehad were at risk of losing the family inheritance and any means of support other than through marriage. So, they mustered up a good bit of courage. I don’t think we can actually comprehend how much chutzpah it took for them to go before Moses, Eleazar, and all the elders. Here were women, who had no more standing before the law than cattle, petitioning from Moses something that was not in the Sinaitic covenant. And yet they asked.
So now Moses is faced with a dilemma. The custom of the day was that women had no standing before the law and yet here they were. They had made their petition known not only to him but the High Priest, and all the elders. The easy way out for Moses was to hide behind precedent and send the women away. But Moses had more integrity than that. Perhaps he also saw the inequity of the situation. Moses had some asking of his own to do. He went before the Lord and asked what he should do.
Hashem is not a God who cannot be approached. He is not like ancient kings who forbid anyone to come before them without permission. The story of Esther is a prime example. No, we can approach God at any time.
Yeshua said in Matthew 11:28 Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
What was the result of the 5 women coming before Moses? The law was changed. Women could now inherit just like a man. What would have been the situation if these women had not had the courage to ask? We can only surmise that the laws prohibiting women from inheriting property would have continued on.
There are a couple of things I want to point out today from this parsha.
1. Be Aware
2. Be Strong
3. Ask for your victory
There are three kinds of people in this world. Those that make things happen. Those that watch things happen and those the ask “what happened”. God wants us to be out there on the field playing the game, not sitting on the sidelines watching. In today’s world of sports most of us cannot participate in professional arenas. We must watch. But fortunately, as a Believer, we are not called to sit on the sidelines watching, or even worse sitting at home not being aware of what God is doing in the world.
Yeshua told us to go into all the world and preach the gospel. But He didn’t stop there. That is just the beginning. He said to make disciples of all men.
Matthew 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, immersing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Ruach ha-Kodesh, (20) teaching them to observe all I have commanded you. And remember! I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Making disciples is hard work. It means that you have to first be a disciple of the Lord. Learn his ways, study His word, be an imitator of the Lord. That requires action. I don’t see anything in that great commission that allows us to sit on the seat and watch others do the work.
Making disciples requires a personal commitment. You have to spend time with people. You have love people, care about people, be involved with people. That doesn’t sound like sitting on the sidelines. No, get out of your comfort zone and do something.
At the end of every Book in the Torah there is the admonition Hazak, hazak, v’nit’chazek. Be strong, be strong, and let us be strengthened. Why do you suppose that is? Because our forefathers knew that we would get tired, we would lose our strength and we would sometimes feel weak. So it became a custom to cheer each other on in the Lord. How often do we do that to our brothers and sisters? Are we cheerleaders or do we shoot our wounded? There are certain people here at Tree of Life that are encouragers. They seem to know when I need a good word. They are upbeat and lift my spirit. Even though they may not be strong physically, they are strong spiritually and are advancing the Kingdom of God by strengthening someone else’s faith.