Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah – Pinchas

I am blessed with daughters. Yes, I am blessed with sons, as well, but my daughters are really strong personalities who are great examples of what should be happening in this world. They stand their ground respectfully and command the same respect, in return. In our currently male-dominated world, they exemplify equality. Corey, Dani, Lani, and Rachel are tops in their fields and have earned their stripes. They should no have had to work as hard as they did to get equal recognition to their male counterparts, but they did and are.

As I read this week’s Torah portion and the tales of Zelophached’s daughters, I cannot help but think of my own and stay ever thankful for the Biblical paradigm that is such an inspiration to women and should be educational to men. Zelophached dies without any sons. His daughters demand to Moses (and God) that the inheritance laws are unfair. According to the prevailing rules, his worth would escheat to the tribe. The rules did not allow women to inherit. They appealed to Moses, who, in turn, appealed to God.

While not the first example of gender equality in the Torah, it is one of the most prescient. Other texts demonstrate he equal dignity between men and women, this text went out on a limb to ensure financial equality, as well.

Granted, the Bible contains lots of teachings to which no one pays attention. White people have used the Bible for thousands of years to justify “White Supremacy,” even while there are no white people in the Bible. Jesus was not even white, and yet, Christianity changed his race to justify their myth of racial primacy. The Torah argues that the Sabbath is a day of rest for everyone including servants and animals: I don’t understand the “Shabbas Goy.” Torah stands obsessed with concerns for the widow, the orphan, and the stranger: the antithesis of “Social Darwinism.” Historically, societies regularly demean those weakest in our community. Through the stories of Sarah, Rebecca, Deborah, Yahel, and Zelophachad’s seven daughters (and many others) Biblical women have overcome the indignities thrown at them by men and male domination only to challenge and establish gender equality. Where the text challenges our consciousness, scriptural authority argues that we are supposed to stand shocked and then debate the text. The full context of the Bible is to teach us to revere each other’s dignity.

How many people study the Bible and claim to live by it, and yet, fail to hear it’s call to equality and justice. How many people quote the Bible, while ignoring the context of the quote they shared? As to this week, specifically, how can we read this week’s text and still pay women less than men? How can we teach the “truth” of Biblical text and justify gender discrimination? How can women read this text and not demand egalitarianism?

The Bible’s purpose is to prompt conversations that make us understand more about each other’s dignity. It calls into question our prejudices about each other and then commands us to wash them away. As I read this week’s Torah portion, and also listen to the variations of today’s “news,” I grow ever-increasingly concerned over society’s misuse of religion to not only further segregate us from each other, but also its outright perversion of the Bible, itself. In the wake of this harsh reality, we then wonder why people get so “turned-off” by religion.

In the midst of all the boycotting and protesting that seems to be our daily norm, let’s protest and boycott any house of worship using the Bible to segregate society, to “lord” one over another, or to justify the inhumanity which some use religion to validate. Let’s say “NO” to the clergy who insist on teaching that the Bible excludes people from our concern, especially the most vulnerable which it goes to great lengths commanding us to give extra care. It is time for people of faith to take back the Bible and to use it as it was intended – to heal the world. Shabbat Shalom.