Zelafchad's daughter's petition for inheritance to perpetuate their father's memory
Why should the lack of a son cause the name of our father to be forgotten
from among his family? [rather]
Give unto us a possession among the brethren of our father.'
Rashi is surprisingly modern here. The verse can be interpreted in two ways:
- The law states that if there is 1 boy and 5 girls the boy inherits all
The petition of the girls was that if girls and boys inherited equally
and the estate should be divided 6 ways. The 6 way division would give more
exposure to their deceased father's name enriching its preservation.
- The law states that if there are no boys, even if there are girls, the estate
is given to uncles (the deceased's brothers). The petition of the girls is that
the daughters rather than the uncles should inherit (so that the deceased's name
should be perpetuated).
Rashi identifies their petition with #2 not #1. In other words the petition
was not that non-inheritance of girls causes less of a distribution among the deceased's
survivors but rather that the non-inheritance of the girls causes no distribution among
the deceased's survivors. This would result in forgetting the deceased. Rashi makes this inference
from the underlined words in the verse, cited in the first paragraph: lack of a son cause
In other words the petition was about no inheritance not about less inheritance.
Rashi concludes: They were not feminists fighting for more inheritance. Rather they
correctly identified the driving force of their petition as the potential erasure of their father's
name. To remedy this they wanted to inherit to preserve their father's name. By focusing on non-personal
issues (erasure of the deceased's name) we see their perceptive and discrete approach to the whole
Since Rashi makes his inference from the logical connections in the verse - lack of a son causes
erasure of our father's name - we classify this Rashi inference as Non-Verse.