*** NOTE: The entire section of “Observation” and about 80% of the Application section is copied and pasted into my post today. The research and interpretation are brilliant. I include some of my own comments at the end of the Application section. To see the entire article, click here. ***
S (Scripture): Numbers 27:1 The daughters of Zelophehad, Hepher’s son, Gilead’s grandson, Machir’s great-grandson, and Manasseh’s great-great-grandson, belonging to the clan of Manasseh and son of Joseph, came forward. His daughters’ names were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. 2 They stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the chiefs, and the entire community at the entrance of the meeting tent and said, 3 “Our father died in the desert. He wasn’t part of the community who gathered against the Lord with Korah’s community. He died for his own sin, but he had no sons. 4 Why should our father’s name be taken away from his clan because he didn’t have a son? Give us property among our father’s brothers.”
36:1 The leaders of the households of the clans of Gilead, Machir’s son and Manasseh’s grandson, of Joseph’s clans, approached and spoke before Moses and the chiefs, who were the leaders of the Israelite households. 2 They said, “The Lord commanded my master to give the land as an inheritance by lot to the Israelites. But my master was also commanded by the Lord to give the inheritance of Zelophehad our brother to his daughters. 3 If they are married to someone from another Israelite tribe, their inheritance will be taken away from our household and given to another tribe into which they marry. Then it will be taken away from the lot of our inheritance. 4 At the Israelite Jubilee, their inheritance will be added to the inheritance of the tribe into which they married. Then their inheritance will be taken away from the inheritance of our ancestral tribe.”
O (Observation): (This entire text is from MyJewishLearning.com)
We might expect that women, heirs to Egyptian slavery and then put under law that frequently favors men, might react by keeping silent, by accepting as natural the rule decreed for them to follow. We might expect women in those days to stay close to their tents, remain out of sight, and not go far from their families. So how and why did Zelophehad’s daughters write a new chapter in history? First, they dared to “go out” from their living place, from their social space, from the destiny imposed on them.
Let’s imagine the scene: the Israelite camp is formed of tribes, each of whom has a determined place, with the Tabernacle in the middle; and in the center stand the main authority figures, all of them men: Moses, the priest Eleazar, and the chieftains. Imposing as this structure may have been, the five sisters decide to claim their rights. Together, they go out of their tents, without being called by anyone, to the place where only the high-ranking men congregate, to the place where the Tablets from Sinai rest in the Ark, to the place of holiness and authority, to a place where women did not have authority. These men must have been overwhelmed when they saw such a startling, unprecedented situation!
[Zelophehad’s daughters] know that the continuity of family name depends on inheritance of the land; and they realize that the current law is not adequate, for it does not take into account the unusual circumstances of a man without sons. They possess the acumen to recognize this omission–in God’s law! But because they consider God’s law to be just, or to aim to be just, they show no hesitation in pointing out the unfair nature of the present situation with complete confidence and supporting their claim with compelling arguments.
[Moses] takes the case to God, who responds by unequivocally supporting the sisters’ demand and even by promulgating a new and permanent law to secure inheritance for any daughters in such circumstances (27:6-8). Thus, the sisters’ claim leads to the law of inheritance’s being changed forever.
A (Application): (Almost all of this text is from MyJewishLearning.com); my own comments are below the horizontal line at the end.
The achievement of Zelophehad’s daughters was a landmark in women’s rights regarding the inheritance of land, from those days up to now. In addition, however, the story of these five women offers a compelling lesson for all those who believe that their destiny is fixed or that divine justice has abandoned them. It encourages us to think differently— and provides a message of hope for all those faced with obstacles. Perhaps the most important legacy of Zelophehad’s daughters is their call to us to take hold of life with our own hands, to move from the place that the others have given us–or that we have decided to keep because we feel immobile–and to walk, even to the most holy center, to where nobody seems to be able to go.
After all, nothing is more sacred than life itself and the fight for what we believe is worthy. Thus, this parashah inspires us to discover that we too have the ability to know what is right for ourselves and what our rights ought to be. When we believe in our capacity to shape our history, to the point of being able to change even a law that came from the Revelation at Sinai, then we pay a tribute to Zelophehad’s daughters.
Back to me, now… : )
In the ELCA, in 2018, we have seen a high number of female bishops being elected. This is exciting news! We are so happy for this continued strengthening of female leadership in the ELCA. And in case you don’t know, our current Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, is also our first female to hold that position.
We hope for fair and equitable treatment for all of God’s people. We hope for stronger pushes for equal pay for men and women, especially our younger female cohorts who seem to be trending downward in pay, causing the divide in pay to be ever-increasing. Not good!
We will continue to pursue God’s will in seeking fair treatment to all people. This text is a good reminder that God’s law is meant to protect and bring life to all who believe in the Lord. May it be so.
P (Prayer): Lord, we give you thanks for listening to our please for hope and justice. Amen.