Monday, June 24, 2013

Parashat Pinchas - The Daughters of Zelophehad

This week we read the story of the daughters of Zelophehad. The portion begins as God instructs Moses and Eliazar to conduct a census of the people. God then instructs Moses to distribute portions of land to the descendents of each of the clans. Larger clans would acquire larger portions of land than smaller clans. But, the women were not included in this process. A man named Zelophehad had just died, and was survived only by daughters. Therefore, Zelophehad’s daughters, were not entitled to any land at all.
The 5 daughters come forth and stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the chieftains and the whole assembly at the entrance of the tent of meeting.  They proclaimed that their father has died. The daughters tell the assembly that their father had no sons.
They plead to everyone present:

“Let not our father's name be lost to his clan just because he had no son! Give us a holding among our father’s kinsmen!” (27:4).

After the women make their plea, Moses takes the case in front of God. God tells Moses:

“the plea of Zelophehad’s daughters is just: that Moses should give them a hereditary holding among their father’s kinsmen and transfer their father’s share to them. (27:7)

Miraculously, God changes the law for all times and for all daughters. Zelophehad’s daughters make it possible for daughters to inherit land when there are no sons or brothers. This was a momentous achievement for women of this time.

And what a powerful lesson for us today. The daughters of Zelophehad should inspire us that we can shape our destiny, and we do have the ability to move mountains, and change laws...even ones that were handed down at Sinai.
May we all have the courage to take action when necessary in order to make change for the better.

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