MOS 5-Point Parasha - Pinchas 5779

Pinchas - "What are you passionate about?"


Here is our weekly "5-Point Parasha", a short list of what we are enjoying or pondering, as it relates to life and Torah.

What Rabbi Sherril is sharing about the parasha...

Parashat Pinchas: All about Tirzah, Milcah, Hoglah, Noa, and Mahlah

In this week’s Torah portion, we read, in a compelling and nuanced narrative, about five orphaned, unmarried daughters who dared to challenge custom and law. Their names were Tirzah, Milcah, Hoglah, Noa, and Mahlah.

Here’s the backstory: Numbers 26 describes a census taken of all males over the age of 20 (26:2). As part of the list of the various clans, we read that “Tzeloph’khad … had no sons, only daughters” (26:33). As the census was concluded, G*d instructs Moses: “Among these shall the land be apportioned as shares” (26:53). “Among these” refers to the males listed in the census, so we can conclude that Tzeloph’khad’s daughters were not counted in the census and also were not to receive any land as inheritance.

Me’am Lo’ez, an 18th c. Torah commentary written in Ladino, suggests that the sisters’ claim to their father’s land enables Moses to pay homage to the Shekhinah, the indwelling feminine aspect of G*d. But at its heart, this is a story about the power of the ostensibly powerless to effect a profound tikkun, or healing. So important is the theme of the dignity of the individual that in each iteration of the story, each daughter is individually named. Further, the order of the listed names varies in the different segments of the story, a fact that Me’am Loez explains as a way to emphasize the fact that all five women possess equal wisdom.

This is also a story about the power of the relational. These are not only biological sisters: rather, their power to challenge the established order stems from the fact that they are true sisters of the heart, united by their shared belief in their cause. Their embodied bond as they stand together “before Moses, Elazar the priest, the chieftains and the whole assembly” and speak not as individuals but in a single, united voice is so compelling Moses that takes their case to the Holy One. The Holy One affirms the right that the sisters have asserted, and they are permitted to inherit their father’s land.

The achievement of these five sisters 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 captivating 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. One of the more important legacies of Tzeloph’khad’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.

This narrative inspires us to discover that we 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 Tzeloph’khad’s daughters.

Sources: Rabbi Janet Madden, 2013

Rabbi Sherril shares an amazing news article (shared by Rabbi Laura Duhan-Kaplan) that illustrates a modern-day version of the ancient story of Tzeloph’khad’s daughters:

Where has Cantor Heather been?

Cantor Heather had the delight and honor of spending Wednesday morning studying and praying with the students of Romemu Yeshiva in NYC. Such great initiative! Check it out:

What Rabbi Schachar enjoyed reading this week:

Tai chi with tefillin: Inside New York’s quirkiest yeshiva, an article in the Times of Israel about the new Romemu Yeshiva.

Rabbi Schachar reminds himself and challenges himself and others to remember what this time period is about in the Jewish calendar, with a story about Rabbi Sholom Brodt z"l:

We are in the 3 weeks before Tisha B'av. (Rosh Chodesh/The New Moon of Av begins Thursday evening). The Sages teach us to infuse this period with gratuitous acts of care for one another as a tikkun, a fixing/healing for this time. I have found that stories of "virtuous reality" can help inspire me to do that... I got to know Rabbi Sholom Brodt z"l through his many visits to Montreal to teach Torah and visit his family. He would relate many stories and divrei Torah, and invariably invite everyone to his home in Yerushalayim for Shabbos. At first his home in the Nachlaot section of Yerushalayim was a super small one bedroom apartment. He and Judy would jam dozens of people in there as guests every Friday night--and then additionally Israeli tourists led by tour guides would arrive to see and experience what Shabbos was all about. Eventually his students and friends helped Reb Sholom get a nicer and more spacious home in which he ran Yeshivat Simchat Shlomo. Rabbi Sholom wanted his special carpenter friend to make the kitchen in the new home. Though his friend didn't really do kitchens anymore, the friend agreed, on one condition: that anyone who ever works in the kitchen would only do so "besimcha", with joy. And so it was. Anytime the workers making the kitchen began to feel irritable or down, they would take a break, until they could reconnect with the spirit of joy. When the kitchen was ready, cooking (and cleaning!) was only done in a state of joy. What a beautiful and great kitchen it is!

Upcoming @ MOS:

Save the date: 3rd Friday of the Month Service, August 16th