• Gabbai

Pinchas – Wonderwomen

In Parshat Pinchas we find a story about women. The five daughters of Tzelofechad approached Moses to petition him for their father’s portion in the Promised Land. The full Torah rules of inheritance had yet not been revealed, and it was assumed only sons inherited their fathers, just as common law of all other societies in that era dictated. These daughters of the late Tzelofechad wished to receive their father’s portion of the land so that they could maintain the family estate and have a part of Israel’s future.

Moses was caught flat-footed. He didn’t know the answer and he turned to the Lord for instruction. God relayed that the request was legitimate, and the complete rulings of inheritance were subsequently instructed, including the inheritance rights of these daughters.

If we may ask an inappropriate question, what drove these women to seek a court ruling? Were they not intimidated to approach Moses, the great leader of Israel, to demand a simple piece of property? After all, it was not as if they would truly lose out. Surely these ladies would marry and partner in their husband’s estate, raising a family which would continue their legacies on that estate. It appears that they were opportunists, seeing a vacancy of ownership regarding the piece of land that their father would have received. They jumped on the opportunity, proclaiming to be heirs to the estate.

The story of Ruth, which always rises in popularity around Shavuot time, contains lessons for all time, for every month and every day. This is another story about women, in fact it is exclusively about women. The men in the story of Ruth are almost incidental, merely part of the setting. A wealthy family from Beth Lehem leaves Israel during a protracted famine, apparently because of the pressures placed upon them to provide for the multitudes. Naomi seems reluctant, but she goes along with her husband and two sons. Naomi’s husband dies and her two sons marry Moabite princesses from the nobility of the land. Her two sons perish as well, and Naomi is bereft of everything. She has no family, no money, only the company of her two Moabite daughters in law, who insist on joining her upon her return to her people. Ruth and Orpah pack their bags