Before his passing, Moses blessed each of the twelve tribes. To the tribe of Asher he gave the following enviable blessing: “May Asher be blessed with sons; he will be pleasing to his brothers, and immerse his foot in oil.”1

But interestingly, in the national censuses conducted by Moses, the tribe of Asher didn’t prove to be significantly more populous than the other tribes. Neither do we find in later generations that Asher’s population should increase disproportionably to the rest of the nation.

The biblical commentator Rashi makes an interesting comment on this verse: “I saw in Sifri [a Midrash] the following: ‘Among all the tribes you will not find one that was blessed with sons like Asher’; but I do not know in which regard.”

This blessing bespeaks the quality of Asher’s children, not the quantitySince it was not a particularly numerous tribe, the Midrash maintains that this blessing bespeaks the quality of Asher’s children, not the quantity. Rashi then wonders what quality made them so exceptional: “I do not know in which regard.”

As for the second part of Asher’s blessing, “He will be pleasing to his brothers, and immerse his foot in oil,” Rashi has a lot to share, while also explaining the connection between these accolades, being pleasing to his brothers and immersing in oil: “Because the women who came from Asher were beautiful [and were sought after for marriage] . . . His daughters were married to high priests, who were anointed with olive oil.”

This echoes an association between the tribe of Asher and the high priesthood made by Jacob more than two hundred years earlier. Before Jacob passed on, he also blessed his twelve children individually, giving them prophetic messages about the future of their tribal dynasty. To Asher he said, “From Asher will come rich food, and he will provide royal delicacies.” The Midrash uncovers another layer of meaning behind this blessing. The Hebrew word used here for “rich” is shmeinah. The same four Hebrew letters also spell the word shmoneh, “eight.” Asher will raise children who wear eight garments, says the Midrash, namely the eight garments worn by the high priest.

Although the priests came from the tribe of Levi, since Asher’s daughters married priests, his grandchildren were eligible for—and eventually served in—the position of high priest.

Asher’s daughters were apparently so beautiful that bachelors from all the tribes wanted to marry them. People of the highest stature, high priests, looked for a wife from the daughters of Asher.

. . . Which is odd, if you think about it. Why would such a holy man pursue a wife from a neighboring tribe just because she was beautiful? If he’s holy—holy enough to be the high priest—why’s he running after beauty?

There is a sort of beauty that runs skin deep, and there’s a beauty that reflects spiritual maturity and personal dignity. When the Torah extols the beauty of a Jewish woman, it is almost always speaking of her nobility and modesty. “The entire glory of the daughter of the king is her inwardness,” says King David2 regarding the modesty of the daughters of Israel. Her discreet conduct glorifies her, giving her an aura of aristocracy that emanates from her modesty.

Their exquisite modesty demonstrated an internal commitment to spirit over fleshApparently Asher’s daughters were renowned for being lovely and refined, which made them most appealing to the family of priests. These women would best understand and support the priest’s work, since they mirrored the core nature of his responsibilities.

The high priest’s work climaxed on Yom Kippur, when he entered the holiest chamber in the Temple, the Holy of Holies. There lay the original tablets that G‑d gave Moses atop Mt. Sinai. The Ten Commandments (its soul) were deeply engraved in its stone (its body), making it impossible to erase His words from the tablets. The high priest then emerged from the Holy of Holies and transmitted the message of the tablets to the masses: Commitment to G‑d can be so authentic and unconditional that it becomes engraved in your very being; body and spirit can seamlessly merge, with the body serving as a perfect vehicle for the soul that vivifies it.

He looked for a wife who would understand the nature of his work, and he found the best candidates amongst the daughters of Asher. Their exquisite modesty demonstrated an internal commitment to spirit over flesh, and an immense respect for the body that housed their soul. Unknowingly, they projected their genuine commitment through their physical appearance—for the beauty of the soul shone unhindered through the body that perfectly reflected it. They were living embodiments of the tablets, and thus the priest saw in the daughter of Asher a perfect partner.

Asher’s daughters were also remarkable mothers. With their modesty and integrity, they transmitted a firm sense of commitment to their children: the unspoken message of one who values G‑d’s impression more than the social impression, and the beauty in maintaining appropriate boundaries. These children were healthy, emotionally and spiritually, fit to be high priests—each one of them.

So although Asher’s tribe was not numerous, the children were of such exceptional quality that one child gave their parents as much nachas (satisfaction) as many children combined.

It is no wonder that all eligible bachelors of Israel vied for the modest daughters of Asher.3