This week we wrap up the book of Bamidbar (Numbers), chronicling the journeys the Israelites undertook in the desert. The final verses bring us back to an episode first encountered a few weeks ago, the daughters of Tzelophchad. This time, spokesmen approach Moshe and the elders on their behalf. The worry is that, once the daughters marry men from other tribes, the land will switch from being within the ancestral property of Menasshe to whichever tribe their husbands are from. Moshe agrees, and the law is passed that any daughter that inherits a plot of land will keep that plot within her tribe even if she marries outside the tribe. However, the text is ambiguous as to how well this law was received, as the final verses of the parsha detail explicitly that the daughters of Tzelophchad marry their cousins, ensuring that the land is not ‘lost’ to another tribe. What was the purpose of explaining the progressive law that Moshe just introduced to assuage the worry of the sons of Gil’ad (who spoke on behalf of the daughters) if not to see it implemented? The fact that the daughters all married their cousins seems to imply that there was still a worry about losing the land.
Kept within the tribe always
Why marry cousins?