This Week’s Torah Portion: Pinchas
Parashat Pinchas features a unique occurrence in the Torah: a re-formulation of law. Moreover, this change to a law of inheritance is prompted by five women. The daughters of Tzelophchad, Malchah, Noah, Choglah, Milkha, and Tirtzah, bravely stepped in front of Moshe, Elazar the Kohen Gadol, the tribal leaders, and the elders to say: “give us a possession among our father’s brothers” (Numbers 27:4). The five sisters articulated their argument clearly, causing Moshe to bring their case before God. God responded to Moshe that the daughters should in fact receive their father’s inheritance. The daughters of Tzelophchad paved the way for women to reclaim their inheritance for generations to come.The Midrash in Numbers Rabbah 21:12 states that God said to Moshe: “HaDin SheEin Atah Yodea HaNashim Yodin,” “the law that you [Moshe] do not know, the women know.” This Midrash teaches us an important lesson not only about the legal contributions of these five women, but also about the contributions of all women to the evolution of Halachah, Jewish law. Women have brought forth countless contributions and insights to Jewish law, particularly to topics that had not yet been investigated or given a woman’s perspective. May the daughters of Tzelophchad continue to inspire us to challenge Jewish law in new and meaningful ways.