The story [of the blasphemer, Leviticus/Vayikra 24:10-23] is noteworthy in that it is one of only four incidents in the Torah in which Moses is shown asking God how to decide an issue (the others are Numbers 9:6ff, 15:32ff, and 27:1ff). Moses sought God’s judgment because the punishment for blasphemy had not yet been detailed. More significant, however, is the placement of this story. It is, in effect, a cautionary tale, coming as it does on the heels of the sections demanding holiness and morality from the Israelites.
Our masters taught: The man gathering was Zelophehad. Thus is is said, “And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks of wood upon the Sabbath day….and they stoned him with stones, and he died” (Num. 15:32 and 15:36); while elsewhere the daughters of Zelophehad said, “Our father died in the wilderness” (Num. 27:3). Just as in this instance Zelophehad is meant, so, too, Zelophehad [is meant] earlier. Such was R. Akiva’s opinion. But R. Judah ben Betera said to him, “Akiva, in either case you will have to justify yourself: if you are right, then you have revealed the identify of a man whom the Torah shielded; and if you are wrong, you are casting stigma upon a righteous man.”